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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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 15.

Despite all their previous mistakes and shortcomings around the Covid-19 pandemic, there are anxious elites around the world who wish to convince working people to go back to work – as soon as possible. They suggest that this return to work is primarily for the sake of the economy. In other words for the same economic system that before Covid-19, treated working people like disposable commodities, whilst promoting increasingly wealthy elites into the billionaire category. In short, they want a return to the type of economy which bolsters the well-being, investments and share dividends of the elite and their hangers on. It is not really about saving lives, for ordinary working people’s lives are considered expendable.

Front line expendables.

Already health care workers, plus those ensuring water, power, food, sewage and refuse collection, have had to risk catching Covid-19 and passing it on to their colleagues, friends and families. Their lives have already been treated as expendable by the failure to supply enough protective equipment for them. Many have already died. This failure was compounded by the decision – from the outset of the pandemic – to issue out of date and unreliable equipment. For example in the UK it has been discovered that;

“Around 200 million vital pieces of kit – including respirators, masks, syringes and needles – had all expired in the eight months before 30 January.” (Channel 4 News)

Furthermore, the same news source obtained insider information that much of the equipment, purchased in 2009, only had a five year shelf life. Instead of being renewed, it had been re-stamped with dates of 2012, 2016 and 2019 and delivered to UK hospitals in March 2020. Only an oligarchy of governing elites with an attitude of callous indifference to the welfare and lives of working people would allow such breaches of safety protocols.

Moreover, if this has occurred in one advanced industrial country, we can surmise something similar – or worse – has occurred in many other countries.

Second line expendables.

The next category of working class expendables expected to risk their lives by returning to work, are those who supplement the first tier workers already delivering the basic essentials, noted above. This second group would comprise of transport workers in road, rail and air services. Additionally, those in industry and commerce who make, store and sell commodities and provide services, will be pressured back to work by one means or another.

Since there is still insufficient protective and testing equipment available for these further sectors, this represents a callous disregard for the lives of these two categories of working people. This indifference is further emphasised by the fact that – as yet – there is an insufficient understanding of how lethal Covid-19 is and how quickly it mutates. Workers returning to their jobs risk not only catching the virus but of also spreading it to other workers and their families.

Not only that but the percentage who do get it in a life-threatening form will also take that into hospitals and intensive care units where – even if more doctors and nurses do not die – it will stretch an already overstretched workforce of health care and medical workers. Thus the lives of a percentage of these two categories of workers – which we all depend upon – are to be treated as expendable.

Furthermore, the rest of us self-isolaters may face an even longer period of isolation if (or rather when) such an unprotected, untested return to work causes a second wave of infections as in South Korea. And all this ‘calculated’ risk to workers will be so that economic activity can ‘return’ to producing profits and dividends for wealthy shareholders. Many of whom will pay to protect themselves from Covid-19.

Retired expendables.

All retired working people, who survive to pension age are, with some exceptions, already treated with callous indifference. Despite a life-time of paying taxes on income and expenditure, pensions for many old people are a pittance. Many have to choose between keeping warm or eating enough food. Care homes have, by and large, been transformed into profit-making, low cost centers of containment and now contagion.

Clearly the political and governing elites, with huge salaries, expenses and pensions, display a callous indifference to the end of life experiences of the old and infirm working classes. In the UK just prior to Covid-19 paralysing the world, the Government and the BBC both wanted to stop allowing those over 75 to have a free television licence.

NB.The astronomical salaries and fees paid to the heads and entertainers of this broadcasting establishment were more important to preserve than this small privilege for decades of hard-working, tax-payers.

But the end-of-life period of this third expendable section of the working class could now be made even more miserable by those who govern our societies. For in the current political elite debate about a staggered return to work a revealing suggestion is already circulating. Since those over 70 are vulnerable to severe illness by Covid-19, they could be told to continue in social isolation for an extended period of time.

Having worked hard all their lives, some even having fought in a war (or two), working class senior citizens, many of them living alone, are to continue their lives – and many more will end it – in a form of solitary confinement! Not through their own fault but because the governing classes internationally have proved incompetent in preparing and managing a foreseeable pandemic.

Millions of pensioners through poor pension provision are now living in food and resource poverty and having this misery compounded by not being able to mix with their friends or have visitors. If you are working class and not yet retired, be warned: Capitalist-led forms of society, whose elites organise expensive and complex landings on moons and far off planets, excavate tunnels beneath seas, build themselves luxury mansions and fund weapons of mass destruction, also have the above impoverished retirement outcome in mind for your old age.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 14.

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.

In addition;

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)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 13.

I suggest there are three class-based perspectives from which to view the dilemma facing key workers in the fight against Covid-19 and three related responses to their efforts.

1 The authoritarian elite perspective. This is one which nearly all governments have adopted. This perspective considers all workers should carry out the duties assigned to them by the employer, (private or public) no matter how dangerous the duties become. Thus dying from work-related illness is considered an occupational hazard and it is unfortunate that some occupations are more hazardous than others. Upholders of this elite perspective, may applaud working people’s dedication even if they are not equipped with sufficient protective gear and tools.

They may also publicly thank them for their sacrifices, but still urge them to carry on. But authoritarian appreciation is not an expression of love for workers or humanity in general. They reason that since working people choose their occupations they should expect to take the rough with the smooth and not to complain about infringements of workplace rights. Yet in tackling Covid-19, many health and front-line workers are daily embarking upon potential suicide missions.

2 The elite social democratic perspective. According to this elite perspective, workers should have the right to request or even demand, (through proper) channels appropriate protection and suitable tools for the job. Only in exceptional cases should workers endanger their lives by carrying on working without proper protection. Workers should also be protected if they whistle-blow to expose dangerous situations. In this more democratic) view, work related deaths are not a legitimate occupational hazard and should be compensated accordingly.

The social democratic response will also applauded working people for carrying on working in hazardous conditions, particularly if they do so without proper protection and equipment. Furthermore, the holders of this view will invariably promise such situations will never happen again. A public inquiry to address the ‘mistakes’ will be promised so that in future they will not happen. In this perspective there is also no love for workers or humanity in general. There is, however, a social democratic conscience which needs to be eased by sincere concern, promises and regret for what working people have been through.

Love and humanity from workers.

It may seem strange in the context of considering the circumstances attending Covid-19 to introduce the concept of love. However, I think it is the only term which adequately explains why doctors, nurses, care workers and other key personnel do not down tools and go on strike until properly equipped. Duty, money and ambition may explain why people continue work in hazardous situations, but a daily risk of losing ones life from within the working environment is different.

When someone repeatedly tries to comfort and save the lives of dying strangers – at the risk of their own – it can only be classed as a form of love – love for another human being. I characterise the broader appearance of this symptom as ‘disaster-humanism’ but for me it is just another expression of love.

[I do not mean the mere use of the word ‘love’ but the actions which actually demonstrate it.]

I suggest that humanitarian based love is a motive different than usual for job selection. It is this which propels people into health and social care and keeps them there when pay is low, hours long and conditions dire. It is the same something extra which motivates people to save lives at sea, rescue people from burning buildings and donate bodily organs to others. Among various kinds of love; love of ones parents, children, brother, sister, partner, sweetheart, or comrade at arms; humanitarian love – is less discussed – but nonetheless active.

Moreover, it is the kind of love which is not only being dispensed in hospitals and care homes, but in ambulances, refugee camps, food banks etc., by those who daily run the gauntlet of contagion to support the helpless, hungry, the sick and the dying. Furthermore, I suggest that love in this form is part of our social evolution. It stems from an emotional response to the practical need to ‘belong’ to mutually beneficial exchanges. In order to survive emotionally, social-beings need to belong. And social groups are where we learn to give and receive love, whether that is with parents, partners, communities and by extension to humanity in general.

3 The working-class perspective. From a working-class perspective, the only real return for the unselfishly given love noted above is love returned in a similar unselfish humanist manner. This view reasons that elite prompted gestures are not enough. These do not exchange like for like. A working-class response requires a recognition that front-line staff and those who keep the health service and basic food, water, electricity, sewage and refuge services going deserve more than applause, bouquets of flowers, aircraft flyovers or illuminated buildings.

They deserve pay, conditions and pensions in line with how important they are to the well-being of our societies.

Finally.

The present private profit dominated system only needed the smallest parasitic life form to penetrate it’s supply chains to trigger collapse. This prompted wealthy enterprise leaders to call for more financial and logistics support from the public sector – and they got it! If large amounts of cash can be found to prop up the richest parts of national economies then it can and should be found for those noted above and all those living hand to mouth. Only a lack of love for humanity by ‘elites’ could return working people to even more poverty when the Covid-19 lock-down is over.

An all-round love for humanity requires a new mode of production based upon egalitarian and sustainable foundations. It is also needed to replace the instability and vulnerability of the present one. A Revolutionary-Humanist perspective means arguing and campaigning for such a society. That way the example of unselfish love provided by health workers and others can be returned and also extended to those who will soon be added to the existing numbers of low-paid, homeless and hungry.

Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 12

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.

Food insecurity.

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)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 11.

Of the many omissions by the elites in governments of all political persuasions during the Covid19 Pandemic, two in particular are becoming the intellectual equivalents of elephants in the room. First, is the lack of any form of apology from governments for the lack of preparation, personal protection and testing equipment to key people and health services of their respective countries. Second, is the lack of any discussion or even hint of thinking about preventing future Pandemics.

No apologies.

Of all the government elites which had the opportunity to be prepared in advance for a pandemic coming from anywhere, clearly those in the USA and the UK were the most advantaged. Take for example, the USA. Its National Security Strategy of 1999 stated;

“..epidemics, such as polio, tuberculosis and AIDS, can destroy human life on a scale as great as any war or terrorist act we have seen, and the resulting burden on health systems can undermine hard-won advances in economic and social development.”

Of course there were later outbreaks such as SARS; HPN1 (avian); H1N1 (swine); MERS; H7N9 (avian); so there can be very little excuse in the USA for the lack of pre-outbreak preparation. And of course the UK government was also acquainted with the possible dangers of a further epidemic becoming fully global. The UK National Security Strategy, in 2008 noted that;

“Experts agree that there is a high probability of a pandemic occurring – and that, as the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak showed, the speed at which it could spread has increased with globalisation”.

Other countries had their own versions of prior ‘be ready’ health warnings or those provided by the World Health Organisation via their briefings. So it would seem that common decency should initiate an apology from anyone in government or high office – in any country – who despite such warnings failed to make adequate preparations. Indeed, you would think that the failure to have sufficient stocks of basic personal protection, equipment and testing kits for front line staff and ancillary workers would warrant resignation by anyone with an ounce of integrity.

But despite many more deaths than would have occurred with good preparations, not even a hint of an apology has surfaced in government briefings or statements nationally or internationally. Even the irony and embarrassment of the UK having to order low tech items like face masks and plastic gowns from sources such as China (the source of Covid19) and Turkey (!) seems not to have pricked a conscience or two among any elites.

Yet it was the neo-liberal elites who over decades in power have reduced health service funding and stripped countries in the west of their own manufacturing capability so that easily produced items such as masks, gowns and swabs could be made as cheaply as possible at the end of an air – miles polluting supply chain. ‘Just in time’ deliveries have become – ‘much too late’ possibilities – and no apologies for this either. What sort of people can’t say sorry for major mistakes?

It is obvious that serious epidemics need a constant supply of protective gear. Shipments from far off countries with delays and internal supply needs is no substitute for local manufacture. Another result of neo-liberal capitalist practice is with regard to prevention.

No Prevention!

It has long been noted that those who invest in production for profit do so without regard to problems ‘external’ to production processes. Problems are only addressed when too large to ignore. Industrial pollution, ecological destruction, climate change, work related injuries and occupational diseases are all preventable, but that would reduced profits. Therefore, capitalists have to be compelled to address these, not by their conscience, but by legislation. It is this mentality which is focused on a cure for viral epidemics rather than prevention.

Hence, the current research for a vaccine, which can be sold to governments and make profits for pharmaceutical establishments. But there is an obvious snag. Vaccines are difficult to manufacture, test, certify and universally apply. Rushed out too soon they can do harm. Even the best vaccines can have serious side effects. Furthermore, Viruses mutate and evolve, some – rapidly. Hence vaccines can be effective only as long as the virus has not sufficiently changed. That approach is a biological arms race and continual vaccine development, like weapons development, is also a source of continuous profit.

However, from a humanist perspective it is much more sensible to also put most resources into preventing viruses, particularly the Zoonotic viruses, which cross from animals to humans. But effective prevention would require quite different relationships between humans and nature, including its many animal species. Mass producing meats and fish for profit has seen the routine use of antibiotic and steroid infused feeding strategies as well as animals packed unnaturally close together so that virus mutation, contamination and spread to humanity is not just regular – but inevitable! Prevention would mean ending such practices.

There is already a division in society between those who recognise that the present mode of production must radically change if humanity is to have a safe future. Moreover, the Covid19 Pandemic has highlighted the degenerate nature of the capitalist system and the inept abilities of the ‘no apology‘ and ‘no prevention‘ elites and supporters. Their future status, profits, high salaries and investment portfolios is as yet more concern to them than the future of the rest of us humans.

To all those who during this Pandemic have come to a pro-humanist realisation, I suggest putting aside any religious and political dogmas and become part of a broad movement arguing for a radical change. After this Covid19 wake-up-call, 2020 and beyond, is surely the period to begin a new campaign for radical change. A revolutionary transformation of the remaining capitalist enterprises and their replacement by egalitarian, cooperative public services is clearly needed.

Is there really not an urgent need for a society tailored to meet fundamental human needs – for everybody – and also designed to be ecologically sustainable?

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

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