CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 23.

It may not yet be absolutely clear to most people that the present mode of production based upon capitalism is structurally falling apart. Even as it re–opens, its socio-economic foundations are continuing to crack and disintegrate. The current situation facing most working people – isolation and reduced income – is being blamed entirely upon a virus. However, Covid-19, is a symptom of capitalist crisis, not a cause. The causes are economic not biological and lie deeper within the system, so symptoms of disintegration will continue.

Capitalism can no longer provide meaningful and secure livelihoods and environments for the vast majority of the people who live within the countries dominated by it. By a combination of computerised automation and outsourced production the number or workers needed by capitalist industry, commerce and finance has been drastically reduced along with their incomes. The Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated that trend and the super-rich one percent (and the fairly rich ten percent), continue to render human beings economically redundant.

They protect their investments by shedding workers and dis-investing from businesses which have ceased to be profitable. They seek alternative ‘opportunities’ which will provide better returns during the rest of 2020 and on into 2021. Dis-investments will result in increased levels of unemployment, poverty, hardship and homelessness for working-class populations. Even middle-classes businesses are experiencing a precarious existence as fewer working class customers purchase goods or services from their shops, cafes, hotels and entertainment venues.

More and more people, white-collar and blue, will be faced with the problem of how to guarantee access to food, clothing, heating and housing. Already food banks and charities are stretched to breaking point, and rough street sleeping has reached unprecedented numbers. As things worsen, charities will not be able cope with the demand placed upon them. Furthermore, from within this growing pool of human poverty, discontent and desperation will emerge the various forms of individual coping activity classed by the elite as deviance and petty ‘crime’, which the system likes to punish.

Crime and Punishment.

Even though only a relatively small proportion of any population actually turn to ‘crime’ all the poor and impoverished come under suspicion by the elite and their law enforcement agencies. Rather than blame the system of capitalism, for this situation of desperate poverty for millions alongside untold wealth for hundreds, the systems elites invariably blame the victims. The latter are therefore treated as individually deficient and deviant. Indeed, the most impoverished sections of capitalist societies are frequently classed as the most problematic and therefore, get the most brutal policing.

Historically, in capitalist Europe and the West, ‘sturdy beggars’, ‘Irish’, ‘Scot’s’, ‘Indians’, ‘Gypsies’, ‘Africans’ and ‘Chinese’, at various times have been the most impoverished and desperate and therefore in receipt of the most prejudiced and brutal treatments by law enforcement. In other places, where capitalism has conquered in colonial form, those classed as ‘aboriginal’, ‘half – caste’, ‘untouchable’ or ‘enslaved’, have been similarly treated. The human victims of extreme elite prejudice have differed from place to place and over periods of time.

This recurrent phenomena of extreme prejudice is a product of the system and is not specific to an individual, gender or ethnicity. A survey of post-colonial reality demonstrates that when those previously at the bottom of the capitalist pyramid, rise to the top, they will exhibit the same ruthless disregard for those relegated to the bottom of the system. Class-based socio-economic systems in general, and capitalist ones in particular, always create ‘haves and have nots’, and the latter are always viewed as individual or collective threats to the existing elites – because they actually are.

For however they try to rationalise it, existing or new elites know they are getting far more wealth than they deserve, and the impoverished of all ethnicities know they are getting less than they need. In this regard, elites are often far more aware of the potential for individual discontent to take on a collective dimension. Rebellions, uprisings and even revolutions are never far from their minds. Hence, they reason the ‘have not’s’ need to be controlled, bribed or ruthlessly stamped upon. Their police agents – secret or not – are trained to absorb this ‘culture’ of blaming the victims and defending the system – at any cost.

Reform and Revolution.

The category of deviant will be extended to those working people (of whatever gender, sexuality or ethnicity) who recognise that it is the ‘system’ which is the problem and unite to collectively improve the situation for themselves and others. Those oppressed will invariably pursue change by campaigning to reform bits of the existing socio-economic system. Few will suggest radically transforming the whole system by revolution. Existential struggles created by modes of production that no longer fulfill the needs of millions, have – in practice – never started from a choice of revolution.

All such struggles for radical change begin as limited requests for reforms directed at the ruling elites by the victims of the system. So in 2020 and 2021, demonstrations, rallies, petitions, etc., for jobs, benefits, housing, schools, health provision, clean environments, dignified end of life-care and less prejudiced policing, are likely to develop. It will be a refusal by elites to institute serious and lasting reforms, that will begin to transform the coming struggles, from a form of collective pleading to be ‘saved’ from the effects of economic crisis to a movement wanting to replace the system.

It is only when circumstances become desperate enough, that victims move from requests or demands to actually seizing control of the mode of production to transform it. The theoretical proposition of a large quantity being transformed into a new quality, will eventually, assert itself in practice. Pushed too far, populations can turn from passive, submissive and sheep-like responses, to bold and assertive re-births of their essential humanity. However, to achieve individual rights of meaningful existence, working people globally will need to unite to free all humanity from the virus-like economic activity of capital.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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SELF-PROTECTING COMMUNITIES!

HPC-09-edit

HPC- Community safety in Rojava.

Hawzhin Azeez, writes:

“In Rojava, Asayish (Internal Security Forces) and HPC (Civil Defense Forces) forces work together in a symbiotic relationship to provide safety and security to the community.”

“The Asayish work as traffic controllers, arrest criminals, protect victims of domestic violence, serve as security guards at main governing buildings and control the movement of people and goods from one canton to another. The HPC in contrast, are people trained in basic security who only patrol their own neighborhood. The purpose of both forces is explicitly to protect the people from outside threats such as terrorist forces. It is always the HPC that protects a neighborhood, never the Asayish. The Asayish protects the city while the HPC protects the community. Both organizations have a gender quota of at least 40 percent women, if not more.”

“Through this alternative method, the possibility of instituting hierarchies of power and authority are considerably reduced. The people are protecting themselves. Security forces protect those who they live with and interact with daily in the neighbourhood. This proximity ensures that violations occur only rarely. When they do occur, the neighbourhood communes immediately activate community mechanisms of justice, honor and restoration.”

“The social ecology of this system is protected by promoting women’s participation, a deep respect for multiculturalism and recognizing the sacredness of nature. It is not enough to create alternative institutions without significant educational efforts to undo patriarchal, socio-political, economic and cultural hierarchies. This system is established through concerted efforts toward democratization, education and unlearning within society. This is the only way that meaningful, long-term and organic change can occur.”

“In order to re-educate society, people in Rojava enter academies for one, two or even three months at a time. This is done on a volunteer basis but also involves government institutions. For example, the Ministry of Education rosters groups of up to thirty teachers at a time to enter academies. During this process, workers continue to be paid. Women with children can take their children along and have free childcare as they spend weeks learning about civic duties, democratic rights, gender liberation, ecological sustainability, the history of capitalism and more.”

“While at the academies, everyone participates in the daily cleaning, cooking and management of the education center. Such communal co-existence is promoted as a conscious effort to re-organize and reformulate society. These people then return to their communities and join the Asayish, the HPC, as well as the communes, cooperatives and local councils.”

“One of the foundational values of democratic confederalism is an anti-hierarchical approach to communal structures and co-existence. Essentially, for this anti-hierarchical system to work, it must be based on the active promotion of equality across ethnic, religious and decision-making processes. This approach starts with the difficult task of promoting women’s liberation and participation throughout the public arena. A quota of 40 to 60 percent women’s participation exists across all administrative and decision-making structures.”

“Rojava’s co-chair system requires that all leadership positions are held by one male and one female. This system is based on the fundamental recognition that political institutions with high degrees of women’s participation tend to be more inclusive and democratic in nature.”

“In a democratic confederalist system, people are encouraged to participate in civil society so that people’s interests and needs are expressed through mechanisms other than through ethno-religious positions and preferences. This civic re-orientation only works when people do not feel threatened because of their cultural identities. In this way, colonial alienation, fragmentation and anxieties are avoided while new, interlinked avenues of belonging and political expression are created. Likewise, political and civic participation is encouraged and expected. De-politicization, apathy and non-involvement are seen as the anti-thesis of a democratic society.”

[The above extracts and photo on community alternatives to state forms of policing are reproduced from an article by the Kurdish academic, poet and activist, Hawzhin Azeez and is published with her permission. The full article (recommended) appears in ROAR at;

http://roarmag.org/essay/police-abolition-and-other-lessons-from-rojava

or on her own blog –  http://hawzhin.press

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 22.

Youth and Covid-19.

The incredible unity and diversity of young people in the May and June 2020 George Floyd demonstrations around the world protesting police violence are to be welcomed in spite of the risks to life posed by Covid-19. (Would anything change without mass demonstrations?) There is an explicit and implicitly correct recognition by these multi-ethnic protestors that the present socio-economic system poses a greater existential threat to their present and future lives than a virus. The primary demand is for an end to targeted police violence motivated by ethnic prejudice, but there is also an understanding that police violence is not the only form that ethnic discrimination and wealth disparity takes.

In all countries, large sections of humanity find themselves at the bottom of the socio-economic pyramid erected upon the capitalist mode of production. They are the current slaves and wage slaves of the system. Their lives are only deemed important by the elite when they are needed to do ‘essential work‘ for the good of the wealthy upper and middle-classes. Consequently the bottom layers of capitalism, have always had the lowest incomes, the poorest housing, the worst education, the shortest life expectancy, the most precarious existences, highest unemployment and the most brutal forms of control imposed upon them.

Modern wage-slaves are predominantly the sons and daughters of former slaves, conquered peoples or home-grown workers – all used and abused in earlier wealth creating periods of capitalism. However, young people, highly educated or not, find themselves living during a stage of capitalist development where the forms of production need less numbers of them due to automation, artificial intelligence and outsourcing. When not needed for work, (by unemployment or lock-down) wage-slaves and potential wage-slaves, are expected to remain unemployed, patient, docile and obedient until needed again.

Therefore, demonstrations against the death of George Floyd in 2020 are also implicit protests against the entire system of elite control of citizens by economic, financial, social and law enforcement mechanisms. Will young Afro-Americans multi-ethnic women and gay men demonstrating in such great numbers – at such great risk to themselves and each other – be satisfied with a few jail sentences and the introduction of anti – racist training for new and existing police officers? Will a fantasy scenario of polite, sensitive, humane interactions between poverty stricken, desperate citizens and a re-educated state law-enforcement agency, be realisable or end discrimination in general?

Of course not! Young people, sooner or later will be forced by the circumstances of their lives during the ongoing crisis of the capitalist system to press on for a wider range of reforms than one narrowly aimed at preventing ethnic beatings and deaths in police custody. The problems facing young people are many and include issues of class, gender, sexuality, disability and age. The challenge for young people will be to maintain and develop the present and future unity of struggle to include and campaign for a wider range of transitional demands which address fundamental issues of how wealth is created, who controls it’s production, how it is shared out and how its detritus is re-cycled.

In any transition between partial and more radical reforms other serious problems will be encountered. In this regard, we should not allow ourselves to be confused by those who simplistically lump together those who are opposed to violence against property because they wish to preserve capitalism and class discrimination and those who are opposed to such violence for different reasons. Some of us advocate a disciplined and humanitarian approach to struggle in order to ensure a path toward ending the domination of capital.

Statues of historically toxic men may be fair targets for democratic pulling down, but buildings and equipment from a revolutionary-humanist perspective are the products of scarce natural resources and working peoples labour. They should be considered community resources to be protected and re-purposed if necessary.

To introduce a new mode of production which fully respects and celebrates all humanity and the other life forms on the planet, an entirely different mode of community engagement, than burning and looting, will be required. The contradictions within the ruling class and it’s armed supporters, (and there are many) need to be studied and worked upon. Blanket condemnation and aggression by anti-capitalist opposition will only cause elite unification. Understanding and communication will expose contradictions, which will only become serious divisions when a genuine alternative becomes visible and available.

Of course there will be a minority whose anger, frustration and lack of understanding will result in acts of violence and desperation. They should be understood as inevitable, but not defended as acceptable or as natural. They are neither. The humanist perspective on real transformative change requires a longer and more measured determination – alloyed with humanitarian concern and generosity.

Good examples are a far greater threat to ruling elites future stability than bad ones. So much so that an astute ruling elite will attempt to place its agents of provocation into oppositions and trigger counterproductive actions. Such ‘agent’ infiltration’s are a classic elite reaction. Causing fires, explosions, outrageous acts and confusion within movements for change is intentional. Such toxic acts will be easier to counteract, within a movement not driven by anger, impatience and dualistic reasoning.

Meanwhile it should also be remembered that some anti-capitalists have inherited the virus of past sectarianism, and carried it into the present. These ‘lefts’ arrogantly presume there is only one valid version of strategy and tactics on how to secure change – their version. Equally they assume there is only one view of how to defend against viruses (biological and intellectual) – their view.

Prior to (and during) this capitalist crisis, such intellectual virus carriers can become strangers to genuine solidarity against capitalism and all it stands for – and so weaken that struggle. They fail to understand that genuine solidarity means accepting that people in struggle will have different methods and views (as well as different skin colours, genders and sexual preferences etc.) on how to proceed in collective forms of solidarity.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 21.

Toxic masculinity during lock-down.

The Covid-19 Pandemic has starkly exposed three of the most fundamental contradictions within the capitalist mode of production. They are contradictions which are ripping apart the already tattered fabric of capitalist socio-economic relations. First, the suspension of many economic activities by order of governing elites; second the almost complete fragmentation of social relations by their policy of lock-down; and third, anti-social violence by toxic forms of masculinity. All three problems are products of capitalism combined with the lack of preparations by its elites.

The pandemic has also revealed elite willingness to become more and more authoritarian in restricting choices. The pro-capitalist elites by granting themselves emergency powers, dictated who was allowed to work, who was allowed to associate together and included how far people could travel. Powers were sought to enforce restrictions, if they were resisted, but in fact most people understood the need to self isolate in order to save lives and did so. But of course it didn’t.

Millions were infected and hundreds of thousands died prematurely. The heterosexual male-dominated elites in most governments were exposed as self-serving incompetents who had ensured that weapons of mass destruction costing billions, were stockpiled, but couldn’t ensure the availability of sufficient aprons, masks and swabs for nurses. Elites clapping front line staff who were actually dying from lack of PPE was both patronising and cynical.

Men at the top of most 2020 governments – even those at their best – have been at least mildly toxic toward humanity by also failing to provide adequate PPE, to care homes, by flouting lock-down recommendations and ignoring social distancing. These omissions and commissions helped the virus to spread – and thus increased the numbers of dead. That is bad enough, but we know that forms of masculinity can (and may) get even more toxic than this. Historically, Biafra, Bosnia and Armenia proved that toxic forms of masculinity were indifferent to suffering and vicious to the point of genocide,

Toxic masculinity in history.

From Genghis Khan, to Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and hundreds more, forms of toxic masculinity have been to humanity what poisons are to the human body – fatal! And the toxic brand of masculinity pops up everywhere – even on the left! Recall how the leader of the Bolshevik political sect, Lenin addressed those members of his own party who opposed his views at the 10th Party Congress.

“Comrades:…Either you are on this side, or the other, but then your weapon must be a gun and not an opposition.” (Lenin collected works. Volume 32)

The most powerful, so-called revolutionary left politician of the 20th century, was addressing the political situation within a dualistic and weaponised framework. An oblique parallel with Donald Trump’s recent verbal treatment of critics, cannot be avoided. Lenin effectively threatened ‘critics’ with the prospect of settling differences with guns instead of discussion. Toxic Trump verbally threatened looting with shooting.

And Lenin’s toxic masculinity was no conference rhetoric, for it is on record that this type of solution to disagreements became routine within the Soviet communist party and reached a pinnacle of depravity under Lenin’s successor, Stalin. Moreover, simple-minded, male thinking – at the time – countered criticism of aggressive left violence by asserting that killing people during revolutions is similar to breaking eggs when making an omelette. (!!)

There is also evidence that left sectarian Bolsheviks killed and tortured rival Mensheviks and Anarchists and visa-versa without a morsel of remorse anywhere. Unfortunately, the viruses of extreme prejudice and a toxic urge to disrespect and punish those who differ, exists within many members of the human species. In particular, a combination of pent up anger, prejudice, ambition and simplistic thinking in the brains of some men, can produce toxic forms of masculinity on the left as well as on the right in politics.

Toxic masculinity under capitalism.

Toxic masculinity really is the elephant in the drawing rooms of bourgeois society. From there it infects all the other environments that it is allowed to seep into. Sadly it is everywhere, from board room, to locker room, to bar room. Not only Harvey Weinstein, but many men rape, sexually assault and kill women. Even young men kill other young men and women in their school classrooms. The capitalist system undeniably produces environmental and social forms of toxicity.

Some (heterosexual) men beat up gay men and some seriously hurt women who resist their demands. Toxic masculinity in charge of high-tech weapons callously direct bombs or shells on wedding parties and school bus trips. Other carriers of toxic masculinity order the mass bombing of innocents knowing exactly what they are doing and exactly who will be shredded into fragments.

Other men ensure that crimes against humanity cannot be brought against their toxic masculine troops rampaging on foreign lands. Those atrocities perpetrated at My Lai, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, provide examples of the depths to which toxic masculinity can descend when they are part of institutions built entirely on that form of masculinity.

And yes in 2020 men with toxic masculinity syndrome can even kneel on other men’s necks until they are almost dead. Others, within days of such deliberate inhumanity, baton and pepper spray those who protest against it. Unfortunately, this is no marginal issue. Like the intellectual viruses they manufacture and spread, toxic masculinity in charge of economies, governance, finance, politics, law enforcement and armed forces is a fundamental problem facing humanity.

Toxic masculinity is currently at the head of every activity which pollutes, destroys ecological balance, starts wars and perpetrates civil violence against anyone who protests too much. Some are even in the support networks necessary for these destructive activities to occur. And, as noted above, there is even a version of toxic masculinity on the left, which thinks there is only one suitable version of maleness to enable and secure radical change. It is the one that is prepared to kick ass – physically or polemically. More on that version in the next article.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 20

The killing of yet another Afro-American citizen of the USA, George Floyd, on May 25th, has once again revealed that alongside the Covid-19 biological virus pandemic, there run much older intellectual viruses of prejudice. Intellectual as well as biological viruses are disproportionately killing human beings. Intellectual virus forms are particularly virulent in the advanced capitalist countries of Europe and North America. The one responsible for Afro-American deaths is located in the brain and creates prejudice against people of colour. It has been active since it emerged during the 17th to 19th centuries.

Elites at the time, needed a justification for the dispossession of native people’s land and the exploitation of their labour. Consequently dualistic categories of superior and inferior races were invented in colleges and university departments. Since that time the virus of colour prejudice – based upon manufactured differences – has been embodied in the language and culture of capitalist nations.

Like biological viruses, socio-intellectual viruses – such as prejudice against people of colour – can be asymptomatic, mildly symptomatic or extremely symptomatic before visibly manifesting themselves. Essentially the same also goes for the ‘intellectual viruses’ of prejudice against females, homosexuals, disability etc. Obviously, an intellectual virus, such as colour prejudice (extreme or mild) occupying the brain does not present the same outward symptoms as a biological virus, but it can nevertheless be easily seen.

For example, consider the face of the police officer who, whatever the prior circumstances, knelt for eight minutes on the neck of George Floyd. This officers facial muscles or eyes did not register any degree of concern for the pain and suffering he was deliberately causing to the handcuffed human being lying helpless on the ground. George’s plea to be allowed to breath left this perpetrator completely unmoved. [Google: ‘George Floyd video’]

The expressions on the faces of the other attending officers also did not express any concern for the pain and suffering caused to the helpless human being whose life was being drained out of him. Those missing expressions of concern along with subtle facial expressions between the police unit members were the visible manifestations of the virus of extreme prejudice. That virus determined and controlled how these men acted. Their collective indifference to the calls of the bystanders also demonstrated the institutional and cultural indifference of law enforcement to the plight of their victim.

The obvious conclusion is that the victim of this particular intellectual virus was not considered as an equal human being by those arresting, abusing and hastening his death in custody. Incidentally, this de-humanisation of victims and the indifference to their suffering is also manifest in the incidences of rape and violence against women and children. It is also there in gang violence and warfare. The intellectual virus of colour prejudice is therefore one of a family of intellectual viruses firmly embedded within the entire culture of the capitalist mode of production.

As an activist, I have personally seen essentially the same callous disregard for the suffering of Palestinians on the faces of Jewish soldiers beating them in occupied West Bank. I saw the same indifference on the faces of British police beating up pickets during the miners strikes of the 1970’s. I have also witnessed it in the actions of Trotskyist and Stalinist group members as they confronted each other during the 1970’s in the UK. We also know it existed (and still exists) in the actions of religious zealots of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

It therefore can come as no surprise that the protest demonstrations against what happened to George Floyd and many other Afro-American victims of police violence all across the USA, were met with with extreme prejudice and violence by baton wielding police.

By including all these examples of prejudice and violence, the common defense of the entire system can be successfully refuted. Apologists for the system assert that the above examples (and others) are simply the result of a few bad apples or rogue elements in society. This allows supporters of the system to ignore the fact that intellectual viruses of prejudice are widespread, integral and functioning parts of the system. This is why bad apples keep popping up over generations and why those around them do not expose them, look the other way or when they are embarrassingly caught out, re-assign them to other duties or provide them with golden handshakes.

Much hypocrisy is displayed by the middle and upper classes, with regard the minority of working-class people who use the distraction of demonstrations to loot shops and destroy businesses. I class this as hypocrisy, because the entire system of capitalism is built on looting and destruction. European capitalists violently looted, resources and destroyed property from their own peasant classes, then from their working classes, before going to Africa, Oceana, North and South America, enslaving foreign peoples, stealing their labour and looting their wealth.

Moreover, the productive, commercial and financial sectors of capitalism are still based upon daily stealing and destroying, by means of profit-making, shorting, insider trading and looting pensions. Those middle-classes who now condemn looting, rarely, if ever, expose or refer to the looting and stealing from people in the past or the present – and from which many still benefit through shares or interest.

Nevertheless, if one form of looting and stealing is wrong – and I agree it is – then all forms of looting are wrong. Also if one form of prejudice, exploitation and brutality is wrong – and again I agree it is – then all forms of prejudice, exploitation and brutality are wrong.

Whilst working class anger and frustration has built up over decades and is now exploding in many forms, particularly in the USA, it needs to be stated that some acts of anger will not lead to comprehenve or lasting changes in prejudice. Furthermore, some acts motivated by anger will be tragically counter-productive. Additionally, if we want to end one form of prejudice, exploitation and violence, we must want to end all forms of prejudice, exploitation and violence. So campaigning just to punish four Minneapolis ‘virus carriers’ – and stopping there – will not eliminate systemic contamination.

The revolutionary-humanist, Karl Marx, noted that the humanist purpose of the working class during a severe crisis would be to ‘found society anew’. Smashing things up, burning buildings and dehumanising the ‘other’ belongs to what he classed as the – ‘muck of ages’.

Roy Ratcliffe (June 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 19.

To mask or not to mask?

The surgical mask became one of the visible signals outside of China announcing the emergence of the virus we now know as Covid-19. As more countries recommend the wearing of these basic masks in public, they have failed to provide scientific evidence in support or to mention that this still leaves eyes and hands exposed to aerosol droplets, particularly on trains, planes and in workplaces. I suggest this PPE item has become a visual metaphor for massive public health contradictions.

Considered practically, the surgical mask is more effective at hiding the wearers identity than it is of completely filtering out a spray of particles bearing 1 to 4 micron sized Covid19 virus. These particular masks were only designed to shield the patients body by restricting bacteria-containing moisture droplets from a surgeons mouth during operations. Any particle smaller than its 100 micron sized mesh is factually able to pass through them.

Consequently, there is varying opinion over the purpose and effectiveness of wearing the basic nose and mouth covering. My preferred version is that wearing a mask at least acts as a symbolic reminder that the pandemic is not over and everyone should remain careful and alert. The other version is that wearing masks will give wearers a false sense of security who may then relax other measures such as isolation, social distancing and washing hands.

Yet the opinions of the political and governing elites around the world seem to be coming down on the side of advising or compelling citizens to wear masks. Good news for the manufacturers of masks and disposable gloves who will make huge profits out of the threat facing everyone on the planet. Good also for the incompetent elites because advice (or compulsion) will give them the appearance of doing something positive – even when they aren’t.

Yet, PPE itself can become the source of viral transmission. Even single-use N95 mask, (95% effective) need to be properly fitted and removed, to limit the spread of the virus. A mask which is contaminated – when removed – can pass a potential viral load to the hands (or gloves) and to any surface they are placed upon.

Since Covid-19, can remain potentially active for up to three days on some surfaces, wearing PPE does not solve the contamination problem as front-line, full-kitted visor-wearing medical staff have tragically found out. At best ‘protection’ has merely placed an extra stage in the viruses path to reproduction. After leaving intensive care, even fully kitted medical staff are not safe until a rigorous removal and disposal procedure has been undertaken. It is similar for the wearer of any form of mask, visor, plastic apron or gloves.

Indeed, the more successful personal protection equipment is at trapping Covid-19, the more lethal it’s viral load can be. So a general use of masks etc., is not as simple or as effective as made out by some knee-jerk, pro-mask commentators. Unless the ‘routine’ includes a flawless cleaning (or disposal) of PPE, the virus passenger remains ready to be picked up. This need for protection and a rigorous cleaning/disposal routine is the weak link in any policy of prematurely returning to workplace, leisure, or educational groupings.

It only needs one or two per group of early returners to the currently pro-capitalist prescribed suited-up ‘dystopian normality’ to become too tired, careless or unconcerned, for contagion to begin again among the vulnerable majority. That is why fresh outbreaks have occurred in China, Italy, South Korea and North America after easing restrictions, despite mask wearing and having testing, tracing and tracking in place.

Within a commuting radius of ill-prepared factories, businesses and schools Covid-19 contagion is begining again.

The ‘masking’ of incompetence.

It has become apparent in a number of countries around the globe that many governing elites have also simultaneously tried to ‘mask’ their own half-baked suggestions, incompetent preparation and management. In the UK, as elsewhere, they have done so by claiming that ‘making things up as they go along’, has been doing the ‘right thing at the right time’. Their decision to privatise the warehousing of medical equipment, for another example, resulted in more confusion, chaos and lateness in issuing PPE to UK hospital staff.

In the rest of Europe and North America, there has been nothing less than a three month masquerade of pretence by many governing elites that they have everything under control. This suggests that the cheap disposable mask also stands as a metaphor for the cover-up of general incompetence by ‘officialdom’. Yet the masquerade of concern for people’s health and well-being during these months of pandemic has now worn thin.

The overiding concerns of the economic and political elites is now clearly revealed. They are the survival of the neo-liberal capitalist mode of production, from yet another near death experience. The primary concern of pro-capitalist elites in 2020 is on giving the capitalist mode of production a ‘kiss of life’ delivered by the agency of working people now desperate enough to risk their lives (and others) in exchange for wages and salaries.

Despite over 300,000 global deaths, and more to follow, not one of the governing elites in any country is prepared to consider an alternative mode of production to the one that benefits them. Yet this is not really surprising for they and their ‘business’ partners in the finance-capital sector are poised to make billions out of this current tragedy. The resulting Covid triggered bankruptcies in the production and distribution categories of capitalism will provide opportunities for those who buy-out struggling businesses cheaply.

Masquerading as ‘saviours’ the financial vultures and masked pirates located in investment banking will slim-down business purchases by staff reductions and sell what is left at a profit. Alternatively, after boarding stricken enterprises they will asset-strip them (pick the bones clean) and sell-off what can be sold. Unless they are stopped from doing so, tax relief and astronomical consultancy/management fees, along with tax-haven secrecy will effectively ‘mask’ their continuing plunder of surplus wealth produced by working people.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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A COVID-19 LOCK DOWN POEM.

‘CONTRASTS’

So many people suffering
While others have a ball
It’s very obvious just now
The unfairness of it all:

Some are desperate for food
With no money coming in,
While others have a long paid break
With time to dance and sing.

High tech gatherings on the web
Keep many well in touch;
For others no such luxury,
The IT costs too much.

Some are loving extra time
And all the peace around,
While some are desperately alone,
No comfort to be found

Then there are those who moan a lot
About missing their friends,
Who keep on asking every day
“When will this lockdown end?”

For some it’s much more serious;
They’ve lost somebody dear
And others dare not venture out,
The news fills them with fear.

The world is always just like this:
The happy and the sad.
Some have a life of ease and joy
While elsewhere life is bad.

A world pandemic might just help
Us all to keep in mind
Those who aren’t so blessed as we,
And teach us to be kind.

There are such good things happening
With people helping others,
It may be humans start to see
Their fellow men as brothers,

And with so many slowing down
And taking time to think,
This might just be our chance at last
To step back from the brink.

Because it does the planet good
When we don’t rush around
Polluting all the atmosphere,
And this is what we’ve found

So let’s stop wishing for the end
Of rules that might seem stern;
It gives us time to think some more
About what we all can learn.

Pat Clarke (May 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 18.

Of three important questions concerning the current pandemic of Covid-19 two have attracted little attention and one has received a great deal. They are 1) Where on the planet did this latest Zoonotic virus come from? 2) How did it spread so quickly? and 3) which groups in society enabled it’s spread? These are increasingly important questions because it has become clear that its effects are so severe, in terms of deaths from infection and the collapse of economic activity, that scapegoats are eagerly being sought by those who wish to avoid responsibility.

1 Where did the virus come from?

This has been the most discussed and answered question and it has helped that it is almost universally accepted, as the Chines elites eventually admitted, to have originated in the Chinese province of Wuhan. The only disagreement concerning it’s origin in Wuhan is whether it was from a wet – market or from a laboratory researching viruses of the corona type. This question has been elevated to importance because it has become part of a campaign by politicians and governments around the world to shift the blame for a lack of preparation away from themselves and onto someone else.

This focus is an attempt to redirect blame for the many deaths onto the source of the virus, rather than the lack of anticipation and preparation. A subsidiary element of this blame deflection has been to correctly suggest that the Chinese Government did not reveal the problem quickly enough. For this tactic to fully work it depends upon ignoring the following. 1. On January 3, China informed the USA and others. 2. In addition to this pre-February warning, all countries had at least five years warning (some ten) of a likely pandemic and most, if not all, had strategic plans to meet it, but waimed until March to partly (!) implement them.

And novel viruses, like Covid-19 are not simply products of far off locations, but of a particular mode of production, supply and consumption. One which, moreover, stirs up infections by disturbing indigenous people’s and wild – life habitations. Multi – national agri-businesses funded by Investment Banks in Europe and America, are part of this de-stabilising, viral-spreading, global supply chain which connects one side of the globe to the other.

2. How did Covid -19 travel?

The speed of the physical human to human relay chain which enabled the virus to spread to all countries of the world within weeks, points to the fact that rapid transport mechanisms were involved. This explains the creation of new international hot spots of contagion within a month. Secondary transmission could also have occurred via road, rail and shipping from China to the rest of the world. In all probability some did, but at a much reduced rate.

However, if we consider the scale and scope of air travel that has risen exponentially over the last few decades there can be little doubt that air transport was the main conduit for Covid-19 to spread so quickly from one side of the planet to the other and everywhere in between. Millions of passengers on business and leisure trips are on long-distance journeys measured in hours rather than days and the air circulation on board is notoriously contained and recirculated.

These millions of passengers disembark and pass through airport hubs of thousands waiting to board other aircraft bound for other hubs or by trains, cars or buses to other destinations. The human to human virus transmission via air cargo routes is just as rapid but less in volume from air crew and freight handlers. It only takes a small percentage of these millions of passengers to spread it to dozens of others and for each to do the same for it to be carried into every airport and into every town and city in the world, within days let alone weeks.

3 Which humans carried Covid-19?

If the main means of the rapid spread was indeed the fast moving networks of air travel and the associated transport hubs then obviously the passenger’s on board these aircraft were the primary human transmission conduits for the virus. It follows therefore that the unwitting carriers of this virus throughout the world were those who could afford to pay the air fares and fees necessary to travel on business or pleasure and to eat, drink and purchase things during those journeys.

It was therefore the more privileged sectors of society, not the poorest which initially spread the virus.

A terrible ironic twist to this undoubted fact is that the poorest sectors of societies in each country are those who suffer most from the virus when it reaches them. The low – paid, homeless, poverty – stricken, precarious employed workers, occupants of refugee camps – the ones who are least likely to fly on business or leisure – are the most likely to die in greater numbers than those who spread the virus in the first place. How is that for an injustice?

A second irony is that some of the privileged sectors in a number of countries are mischievously or cynically trying to blame the non-jet-setting Covid-19 victims (Gypsies, asylum seekers, homeless etc.) for actually spreading the contagion. This lack of air-miles self-criticism by affluent travelers is yet another instance of the more privileged sectors of modern capitalist societies avoiding responsibility for their own contribution to the problems humanity faces.

Such attempts to transfer responsibility for viral transmission onto victims of this unequal socio-economic system is nothing short of scurrilous. If this blaming of victims and using them as scapegoats for the ills of the whole system is allowed to go unchallenged, then the real problems humanity faces will never be solved. In fact they will be further compounded. The source, the means and the human agency for this pandemic, is a product of the neo – liberal, supply-chain stage of capitalism.

Now no one can be fully safe from the effects of viruses, floods, fires, droughts, storms or economic collapses until the capitalist system is ended.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 17.

Class conflict over the present lock-down.

The recent media reports of conflict between those who wish to end lock-down asap and those who wish to delay it, has been framed within the dominant dualistic and liberal viewpoint. It has been presented as one between those who care about the welfare of everyone (represented as the good side) and those who only care about their own individual circumstances (represented as the bad side).

Consequently, those who have refused to wear masks, social distance themselves and stay in isolation have even been designated by some on the political left, as right-wing, selfish, reactionary and even anti-social. In contrast, those who have adhered to governmental elites recommendations have been depicted in a more positive light. Yet this dualist framework misses out the class nature of capitalist societies and the ongoing struggle between the classes.

For a start, it has been mostly overlooked that those in government positions and making the recommendations are all doing so from a comfortable position of financial security. Whilst they speak of us ‘all being in this together‘, they retain full salary or pension payments and live in social and physical circumstances of considerable ease. While they are listening, many working people who have no financial security, at best only a percentage of their wage or salary, living in housing with limited comfort and are thinking ‘no we are not’.

It also seems to have been forgotten that less than six months ago, working class disillusionment with the political class and governing establishments was considered widespread and understandable. The experience of a decade or more of austerity, low pay, destroyed hopes and frustrated aspirations, had led to an almost universal working class distrust of their elite ‘leaders’. It cannot be surprising that this distrust has been further compounded by the establishments failure to adequately prepare for and deal, with the Covid-19 pandemic.

What should be surprising is that, despite a massive amount of disgust and distrust for the establishment, so many working people have independently reasoned that self-isolation, social distancing etc., was needed to save lives in the absence of viable alternatives. Most working people did not comply with such suggestions simply because dodgy politicians passed emergency powers and recommended them. They did so because it made sense.

This ability to reason is also why millions of workers – despite the hardship of lock-down – have not followed the establishments recommendations to return to work, school and leisure pursuits.

This pattern of reasoning shows greater wisdom and intelligence than automatically doing the opposite of what the incompetent establishment suggest. Thinking things through is generally a better process than a simple knee-jerk opposition. But that same wisdom and intelligent reasoning is needed to also understand that some working people are in such dire straits that – in the absence of an acceptable alternative – they have joined the return-to-work-now camp of their class enemy.

Class conflict over future outcomes.

However, the experience of returning to work will probably soon separate the working-class early returners from their equally keen ‘get-back-to-work’ employers, for their class interests are fundamentally opposed. Owners will have profits and efficiency in mind; workers will have safety and decent pay on theirs. The two viewpoints are far from compatible. Patience, understanding and supportive discussions between stayers and returners will expedite a coming together of working people’s class interests in a common, post-pandemic struggle.

The global Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the crisis-riddled nature of the capitalist mode of production, but it has revealed much more. It has underlined the contrast between the low paid front-line workers upon which we all rely for our basic survival and the high pay of governmental, economic, military and financial elites who have hindered our basic survival needs. All other sectors of society have been forced to recognise the importance of those essential workers who worked through the lock-down.

But the rich only did so by a cost-free process of clapping their hands.

Since essential workers risked their lives for the rest of us they will need massive support to ensure they are not left vulnerable to the privatisation, low-pay, and poor working conditions which the neo-liberal elites presently governing countries will try to introduce after this virus has been neutralised and the pandemic ended. The high levels of unemployment, poverty, low-pay and precarious existences for ordinary working people before, during (and after) lock-down will need to be and should be resisted. The fundamental issue becomes;

The need for a more humane, egalitarian and ecologically sustainable mode of production is still the fundamental issue at stake in the 21st century.

The many other issues, important as they are, are not resolvable unless the mode of production creating and maintaining them is addressed. Issues such as climate change, ecological destruction, air, land and water pollution, inequality, poverty, immigration, asylum seekers, pandemics and wars for resources, as deadly and important as they all are, cannot be resolved without changing the way humanity produces and consumes it’s products and services.

Global competition for private greed needs to be replaced by global social cooperation and ecological management for public need. That change in motivation for, and management of, the production of goods and services would allow the other issues to be addressed both individually and collectively. Standing in the way of such a change are exactly the same hereditary managerial and governing class of elites who have been repeatedly exposed as incompetent and self-serving.

As the capitalist class removed the feudal aristocratic elites from positions of power and control of land, in previous centuries, the new new hybrid capitalist/pro-capitalist managerial elites need to be removed from positions of power and control of capital by the working classes, in this century. Since ‘capital’ is nothing more than the monetised value of past – production created by working people it is time working people controlled what is produced, where it is produced and how it is produced.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 16.

The limits of nature.

The 2020 Covid-19 Pandemic has been another demonstration that the natural world has limits and that not every limit can be definitively overcome. However, this microscopic life-form has not ‘caused‘ the crisis. It merely placed a proverbial straw onto an already top-heavy, overburdened, crisis-prone capitalist system. Blaming an invisible virus or China for economic crisis is simply political spin.

The current economic collapse is fundamentally a further result of the faulty foundations upon which capitalism is built. Again (as in 1929, 1939-50 and 2008) capitalist industry and commerce has to be bailed out by a series of public measures. The representatives of privatisation and capitalist society have socialised a capital created crisis by massive grants of state created loans and cash.

This latest socialistic type rescue mission has occurred because pro-capitalists consider not even economic ideology is more important than the capitalist mode of production itself. To them, nature is not more important, family is not more important, community is not more important, human life is not more important; even the planet is not more important, than extracting profits from economic activity.

To maintain profitability the capitalist system and it’s supporters have over two generations; destroyed natural habitats, decimated families, uprooted communities, bombed nations and some plan to colonise other planets once this one is ruined.

The limitations of capital.

Capital, Profit and Production have become the real-world trinity for capitalists – the secular and economic equivalent of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost of Christianity. However, the holy ghost of capitalist production has disturbed nature in ever increasing ways. Wide-spread floods, repeated famines, extensive forest fires and new global diseases, have been triggered by missionary work dedicated to capital and profit. The mentality of homo-technophile, (species: profito-sapien), continues to assume that nature’s limits are simply barriers to be overcome.

In overcoming natural and social barriers, science and technology, harnessed to the profit motive, has left large areas of the planet devastated and rendered sections of humanity intellectually impervious to the deteriorating condition of the whole of nature. However, the natural world is not simply a resource to be exploited.

Nature is a complex interaction of organic and inorganic material, which once sufficiently disrupted, has unintended consequences beyond the ability of humanity to control. Yet vested interests still sufficiently dominate the upper and middle sectors of humanity making them unwilling to view what should be increasingly obvious.

The limitations of mainstream media.

Nowhere has this failure of vision been more audible and visible than in mainstream media broadcasts during the Covid-19 lock-down. There has been an unending stream of commentators on radio and television networks who are unanimous in avoiding seeing their own varied – yet crucial – role in this crisis or the others we face.

On TV and radio, presenters, politicians, hand-picked, medical experts and celebrities strut their stuff and enthusiastically promote the myth that lock-down is just a temporary blip before a return to their one-sided form of ‘normality’.

For weeks – as people were actually dying – media appearances by comedians, musicians, documentary producers, film directors, politicians, bankers and sports men and women have glossed over tragedy and expressed their desire to get back to jetting around the world and accumulating their disproportionate slice of annual wealth, derived from their gigs, conferences, festivals and locations.

The equally narcissistic sports fraternity and ‘game’ commentators, voiced anticipation of many international flights to ‘matches’ and ‘races’ staged around the world – when its all over!

During my eight weeks of lock-down listening and watching, not one contributor across many channels, stations and bulletins has shown an inkling that their combined activities based on the extraction and burning of fossil fuels is a substantial part of the problems (including Covid-19) faced by humanity as a whole.

In over two months of mainstream broadcasting and print, it has not, to my knowledge, crossed any of the collective or individual contributors minds that the natural world and humanity may need a permanent rest from all this hedonistic and self-destructive so-called economic activity.

The limitations of celebrity.

It may not be true that Nero played the fiddle while Rome burned, but we have a modern equivalent of that possibility in wall to wall, self-absorbed celebrities and politicians ignoring the contribution they have made to the planets many disorders. These battalions of well positioned and intellectually ‘conditioned’ apostles of mammon are an enormous conservative weight upon the efforts to defeat Covid-19 and change the mode of production for a better one.

They manage to ignore the fact that the capitalist system which pays celebrity so handsomely also creates poverty – and poverty kills just as effectively as a virus!

We need to learn to detach our admiration for individual celebrities from their taken-for-granted entitlement to disproportional rewards compared to those who continually supply our food, water, electricity, sewage disposal, transport and heal our damaged bodies. We also need to remove our support for the ‘entitlement’, assumed by celebrity, political, financial, economic and military status, to use their wealth to dis-proportionally damage and pollute land, air and water resources.

The limiting of dissent.

Also to my knowledge, not one seriously dissenting voice or radical pen has yet been allowed on any mainstream media outlet. Mainstream media has been a constant gushing forth of self-obsessed middle-class economic and political mediocrity. The Internet has been the only source of radical dissent and that has meant sifting past the imaginative inventions of those, who only prove that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

Being certain of something and repeating it with little or no independent evidence to support it is exactly what the political and governing elites are doing. Being no different in this regard is to be no different in general and a refreshing difference by honesty and humanity is what is desperately needed as we consider the future.

Well honed ‘crap detectors’ and the internet are still important attributes for us to develop and to wield as we survive 2020 and go beyond.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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