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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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 10.

Three scenarios.

Since most governments ignored medical science warnings of a coming Pandemic, most countries have fallen back on various forms of hasty Plan B’s. These have involved lock downs, citizen isolation’s and quarantines of various kinds and duration’s. The effects have been to stop many kinds of economic activity except (as yet) essential food supplies, water, heating, electrical power and sewage. Economically, this has had the same effect as a global General Strike of workers but in this case motivated, authorised and part-funded by ruling elites.

Although unevenly distributed, the reduction of income and expenditure has been international. Government bailouts have been in the form of loans and percentages of previous incomes. Exceptions aside, those already struggling prior to lock down will therefore be in debt and those already in debt will be more so. That applies to employed, self-employed, unemployed and businesses. Hence in many countries speculation is rife about how soon ‘life’ will return to some kind of working ‘normal’. In this regard, it is worth considering three possible scenarios and outcomes for ending restrictions.

1 Before reliable and extended testing. It is clear that until a reliable test is widely conducted no one knows who has the Covid-19 virus or has had it and thus likely to spread it. This means that some percentage of those going back to work or beginning to socially congregate – before such testing – will inevitably spread the virus even if masked and practicing regular hand washing.

It would only take one or two lax persons to leave a trail of aerosol droplets in communal spaces or virus-containing hand debris on community sited handles, buttons, documents, food, counters etc., to attach itself to more than one other person (who even if immune) might thus deposit it elsewhere. That chain could potentially set off at least another localised epidemic. If due to the current lock-down and self-isolation a high percentage of citizens are not immune, then the infection figures could rise again along with a further percentage of hospitalisations and deaths.

Many businesses, for various reasons, will still not re-open at this point and therefore not re-employ workers. Many will not wish to risk catching the virus by returning to work or socialising too soon. Some will also not want to work or socialise with masks on and at distance from each other. Many businesses having collapsed may never re-open. Economic activity will therefore return but at very low levels.

Moreover, if due to premature lifting of restrictions, another serious spike in infections occurs, then isolation etc., will be re-instated all at a time when health service staff and resources would be exhausted and depleted.

2 After extensive good quality testing. In this case those tested positive and presumed not to be carrying and shedding viruses can return to work (if its available) and to socialising with others similarly positive. Whilst paying off any accrued debts those then in work can become purchasers of more than basic food stuffs. Those tested negative will need to continue isolation or risk picking up the virus in one of its mild or extreme forms. Those not tested will face the same dilemma as those testing negative. Some will and some won’t return to work or socialising.

All those who don’t find work will also have to deal with mounting debt whilst on benefits.

By that time more small businesses and some large ones will have been bankrupted or downsized and others will have cutback on staff, to lower costs and/or repay debts. Therefore, the unemployed figures will have risen, poverty will have increased and overall purchasing power still low. Even those businesses and sole traders who managed to survive during lock down will be faced with reduced customers and low margins. Economic activity will not be an upward spiral.

And still no vaccine yet! So no return to ‘normal‘ – if normal is envisaged as pre- 2020 levels of simmering crisis in social care, education, local government, financial bubbles and speculation, political corruption, air, land and water pollution and ecological destruction. All these were steadily ratcheting up and heading on crisis trajectories. Covid-19 merely interrupted their paths before they became disasters.

3. After a successful vaccination programme. The vast majority of citizens of countries who eventually carry out mass vaccination programmes will no longer need to socially isolate – but global trade will not have fully recovered. Consequently unemployment will remain high and demand for high-value products insufficient to stimulate large-scale employment. Capitalist investors will know that.

Apart from a few the rest will engage in financial speculation. Inflating financial bubbles will do little to stimulate jobs or trade.

And importantly none of the pre Covid19 problems referenced above will have been solved. Precarious employment, food-banks, low pay, high personal debt, social care problems, student debt, increasing drug dependence, crime, asylum seekers, economic migrants, political instability and yes still under-resourced health services. All these pre – Covid19 symptoms will have been intensified by the global shut down. Then there are the Covid19 ‘bail-out’ additions to the huge pre-2020 government debt levels.

Debt which isn’t cancelled will have to be serviced, by individuals and countries, the latter from a physical tax base reduced even further by Covid19 created unemployment and bankruptcies. Even the best post-vaccination scenario will be worse for many people, including large numbers of the middle-class, when good jobs and investment funds decrease. Even in the ‘advanced’ countries, the rest of 2020 and 2021 will not return to a normality most people would wish for. Not under the present mode of production.

Finally.

After Covid19 lock-down, working people will therefore be faced with campaigning for a new egalitarian and ecological mode of production, valuing all workers and adequately preparing societies for the next crisis (or future Pandemic) or being driven back to 1930’s levels of poverty by the return of elite-orchestrated authoritarian capitalism. Either way, 21st century economic and social logic suggests that normal will not be returning soon.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

[For an interesting parallel to what faces us consider a short article on the novel ‘The Plague’ by Albert Camus at  http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2020/03/no-longer-merely-metaphor-re-reading.html ]

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 9.

The hypocrisy of the economic and political elites and their middle – class supporters in the media is clearly visible if one gives attention to the statements they utter. Take for example the politically orchestrated and media amplified salute to the nurses, doctors and ancillary workers. The sight of the elites standing at their doors clapping these front-line hero’s and heroines and talk among politicians and the media of their combined admiration and gratitude to them is in stark contrast to how they are actually treating these front line workers.

Distinguish between April 2020’s hypocritical rhetoric and the decades of governments refusing health service wage increases and in the lack of media support for better terms and conditions for nurses, junior doctors and allied staff. Contrast it also with the fact that after two months of warning and one month into a general self-isolation, medical staff are still not in receipt of the equipment and resources they so desperately need and were promised. Yet blaming or ignoring these front-line victims is already underway.

Only this week (9/4/20) one government official in the UK claimed that the reason medical staff were short of protective equipment was that many of them were causing shortages themselves by inappropriately using it. (Echoes of Hillsborough  and Grenfell Tower?) Yet as one distressed nurse on Facebook reported with regard to reports of already delivered protective gear; “..they are lying to us”. A similar case can be made for the lack of ventilators and the drugs for sedation, the testing kits and the chemicals required to complete the tests.

With large machine gouged trenches being dug in the USA for mass burials and deaths reaching the tens of thousands, you would think a neutral media would be focused on the laxity of governments and their officials. After all, the latter have the authority and the power to make things happen – if and when they wish to do so. In the USA, the New York Times, has indeed, produced a scathing review of the shortcomings of the Trump administration since the first warnings in January 2020, noting that;

A week after the first corona virus case had been identified in the United States, and six long weeks before President Trump finally took aggressive action to confront the danger the nation was facing — a pandemic that is now forecast to take tens of thousands of American lives — Dr. Mecher was urging the upper ranks of the nation’s public health bureaucracy to wake up and prepare for the possibility of far more drastic action.” (see http://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/11/us/politics/coronavirus-trump

Elite exit strategies?

It needs to be remembered that Donald Trump and Boris Johnson get along because they think along the same grooves. They share an elite pro-capitalist outlook on the world, particularly the world of business deals and making themselves rich on the back of economic and financial exploitation. So it should come as no surprise that in Britain as in the USA, business first Boris and his cronies were also dangerously slow to act to prevent corona virus contagion and are already considering early ‘exit strategies’.

Clearly most media puppets of neo – liberal capitalism are of little use. In the UK, for example, in spite of over 11,000 corona virus deaths and untold front-line shortages, much of the sycophantic media have chosen not to focus on the reasons for this preventable outcome. Instead, they chose Boris Johnson’s Covid – 19 hospitalisation event. The experience of one privileged elite politician has been the subject of a detailed celebrity eulogy of how his ‘leadership’ (sic) is to be applauded and how much he appreciates the NHS.

However, this celebration of a right-wing hedonistic dilettante has conveniently overlooked his record as an active member of a previous Conservative government. It was an oligarchy that wasted huge amounts of time on Brexit wrangles and vast amounts of money on new Aircraft Carriers plus numerous billion pound aircraft. All this spending took place whilst the NHS was struggling – before Covid – 19 – and which under his current administration – is now suffering! A similar picture but with even worse outcomes is taking place in the USA.

The ‘establishment’ and their middle – class supporters will hope enough people fall for this hypocrisy and that we will buy into this attempt to ignore or play down the tragic events that led up to it. The political elites everywhere will be employing their ‘spin’ to create a narrative of events which will enable their return to power and the early reintroduction of the system which underwrites their wealth and power. Ordinary citizens frustrated desire to return to some version of normality after lock – down will be skillfully crafted onto their own self-serving version of an early ‘business as usual’ exit strategy.

Already, their financial sector buddies are considering how best to escape the huge debt tsunami which will follow this now tectonic-sized collapse in global trade. In the financial media “whatever it takes” discussions and proposals are being made for the coming wave of debt which will swamp our populations when the virus is neutralised. Financial sector talk is all about creating privileged ‘Corona Bonds’; ‘Pandemic Recovery Funds; ‘Pandemic Emergency Purchasing Programmes’; ‘Guarantee Funds’, etc.

Guess whose ‘recovery’, ’emergency’, ‘purchasing’ and ‘investment’ concerns will be paramount in these top – level banking and government discussions.

However, any future socio-economic recovery may actually replicate – in economic and financial terms – what happens when a huge earthquake cracks the earth’s crust beneath the sea. Huge volumes of water (read ‘debt’) are also disturbed and soon begin surging toward the already compromised victims. Whilst post lock-down Covid-19 survivors will be glad the life-disturbing viral impact has ceased, very few will be fully prepared for the (debt) tsunami that will follow and maybe a second wave of infection.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

[An extended critique of Boris Johnson (Bojo) and the British elite over Covid-19 deaths is contained in ‘The last refuge of a scoundrel’ by Tom Mckenna, at http://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/10/the-last-refuge and more recently by Kenneth Surin on  Bojo (the clown)  at http://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/15/boris-johnson ]

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 8.

Nightingale Hospitals – rhetoric and reality!

Should we really congratulate the elite in the UK and elsewhere for renting empty warehouses or surplus concert venues and claiming these are new hospitals? These ‘beds in rented places’ are not to be confused with modern health care developed since Florence Nightingale pioneered holistic nursing during the Crimean War. In the UK her name has been used to make temporary ‘infirmaries’ in the UK seem decidedly more than they are. Her name is being used as political spin applied to something decidedly grim – an end of life containment solution.

Faced with a virulent contagious agent and woefully under-funded healthcare systems, the elites in many countries have rented out (or sequestered) temporary containment places. These are intended for an anticipated large number of not quite dead bodies of the victims of mismanagement and the Covid – 19 virus.

If it gets really bad, the severely ill patients will be lined up in long rows of beds, (with ventilators or not), but with very few ‘normal’ hospital services available. They will be monitored by more of the already over-worked, exhausted, under-protected and excessively stressed ‘medical’ – hero’s and heroines – until some recover and the rest die.

These warehouse ‘infirmaries’ (and even ships named ‘Comfort’) will be part of each countries large – scale version of the triage method devised in previous war times when most human and material resources went into devising and delivering ways to kill the other side and not enough resources were left over for better care of the wounded, cannon-fodder soldiers.

So in this alternative ‘war’ casualties and medics will also receive insufficient resources – yet again! The need for quarantining in the ‘Nightingales’ will conveniently obscure the working and dying conditions for nurses and patients within these makeshift venues. Visitors with flowers and fruit will not be part of caring for loved ones in their hour of need. As one doctor implied;

Many seriously ill people will conclude it better to die at home rather than alone in a packed corridor, a make-shift ambulance or a  re-purposed warehouse.

This latest Covid – 19 ‘end of life warehousing solution’ is not simply – or only – the result of callous indifference by the elite for the poor and powerless in capitalist societies. Double standards are the rule. True, as the press say, the elites are also people and get ill, but bear in mind many of them are responsible for the lack of planning and resources and therefore for more deaths than would otherwise be the case. And they won’t be the ones ending their days – alone – in a large – scale, former exhibition hall.

The capitalist system, based upon the mass production of commodities for the profit of the relative few, frequently executes large-scale solutions to the problems it’s elites have brought upon themselves and us. World Wars, weapons of mass destruction, mammoth distribution networks, large-scale land-fill sites, vast forest clearances, large-scale unemployment, etc. So given capitalism’s premise of business first, humanity second, why would warehousing the end of life period of dangerously sick Covid – 19 victims, not be a logical solution to the capitalist elites self-inflicted containment problem? But what an indictment of this system it is!

And after lock-down?

Many people before this pandemic have mistakenly thought that if capitalism was managed better or more humanely then the many problems humanity faces could be avoided. This was tried in Europe and the West after the Second World War, but the logic of the system, harnessed to the power of its elites, steadily reversed one moderating measure after another, until we are, were we are – now!

That is to say that although humanity is a naturally evolved, inter-dependent social species, we now find ourselves having to hide away from our neighbours in fear and trepidation. Instead of communities coming together, the capitalist system has again driven us further apart.

Some will still think a better managed capitalism is the way forward and some will think so after this virus war is over. The elite themselves will put energy and resources into promoting the view that mis-management was the recurring problem and that their neo – liberal iron fist of ‘efficiency’ should have another velvet glove slipped over it. We should expect no alternative from elite-managed systems – of any political persuasion.

To sit on top of society, all elites need a subordinate and compliant citizenship who are willing to be sat on.

However, the post – Covid – 19 World War, will be different than in 1945. No elites, after the Second World War, thought that economic growth, could exhaust the planets climate, create ecological imbalance and cause food chain extinctions.

Indeed, political opinion from Fascist through Social Democratic to Communist all thought economic growth through mass-production techniques were not just the solution to problems of 20th century poverty, but also the logical direction of humanities progress. Progress was viewed politically by left, right and centre, through the elite-polished lens of ‘possessing’ more and more commodities to satisfy the producers desire to promote conspicuous consumption.

Very few then were ready to commit to a radical alternative form of progress such as being a member of a humane economic community – in order to satisfy everybody’s basic social and emotional needs. Yet already experience of Covid – 19 suggests that social participation and community belonging would be infinitely better than isolated consuming.

The lack of face to face human contact after a month has already proved physically and emotionally distressing. Moreover, even with an excess of expensive possessions, the months of self-isolation now needed – could not be endured without other heroic low-paid key workers risking their lives to supply electricity, food, water and sewage processing.

If Covid – 19 causes people to critically reflect upon the ersatz values of the system we currently have and to reflect on who and what is important to society, then a significant element of good could still come out of it.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 7.

For the want of…..?

With each update of news since the Pandemic commenced, I have been reminded of a childhood story told to me about how a king lost a war against an invader. The story went something along the lines of; For want of a nail, a horseshoe was lost; for the want of the shoe a horse was lost, for the want of the horse, the rider was lost, for the want of the rider, the message was lost, and for the want of the message the battle was lost. I also remember reading the story to my young children from a Ladybird book and then explaining its meaning to two four year olds. Later I reminded them of the moral when something occurred which illustrated the point from their immediate experience and not something only relevant to childhood fiction.

Surely this moral is, in one narrative form or another, a universal story based on many chains of cause and effect with costly negative consequences. If it was taught to at least two generations of working class kids in a moderate sized industrial town in Lancashire, surely it cannot have passed by the Eton, Harrow, Oxford, and Cambridge trained elites, many of whom sit atop our governmental, medical and scientific institutions. Are we not informed that they are in receipt of jaw-dropping salaries, perks and pensions precisely because they are the most intelligent and far-sighted individuals we have on this sceptered isle?

Perhaps future children should be taught a more updated narrative based upon events and elite incompetence so far but making the same obvious points of the consequences of a lack of foresight and due diligence. Such as;

For the want of compassion – bush meat was bled.
For the want of diagnosis – a virus was spread.
For the want of restrictions – a pandemic was fed.
For the want of protection – doctors and nurses were dead.

For the want of precautions – the contagion went wide
For the want of hand gel – infection came like a tide
For the want of testing – people were herded inside
For the want of ventilators – weak patients then died.

For the want of hospitals – empty buildings were sought
For the want of health workers – volunteers were taught
For the want of truth and honesty – excuses were thought
For the want of an alternative – a bailout was bought.

For the want of humanity – big-business came first
For the want of a home – some were not nursed
For the want of a carer – many victims felt cursed.
For the want of a conscience – not much was reversed.

If the full costs are not clear yet – they will be before too long. The cost of this want of preparation for a pandemic will be extremely high. This BIG ONE has long been predicted by dozens of scientists dealing with the nature of viruses, their effects and trajectories. Adequate preparations could have been made for a few billions of pounds, dollars, Euros etc., from tax-payers contributions, with only moderate to high levels of social and economic disruption. But under the present ‘elites absent whilst at work‘ system, the costs to endure the pandemic will now be tens of billions in currencies and the social, economic and human costs will be astronomical.

Not only will many more thousands of people lose their lives, but thousands more will lose, their jobs, homes and health. Furthermore, if the system of capitalism survives intact, the past, present and post-pandemic costs will have to be born by the remaining tax-payers who survive. In effect British, European and American countries, now and even more so post-pandemic, will be seriously and obviously bankrupt. The pre-existing sovereign loan debts states already incurred were un-payable, before Covid – 19, now after further loans, they are even more beyond a countries ability to pay.

The sensible outcome would be for countries to parallel what many firms will have to do post-pandemic crisis. Declare bankruptcy, cancel all debts and close down all liability activities. In the case of a whole country – since national self-determination is a right – this could be done. The day after cancelling debts a country could start up economic activity again by printing money (as they keep doing for banks) and immediately employ every adult citizen of working age in one or other of the range of public services (if needed create new ones) and pay them on new averaged out (egalitarian) pay scales.

Such countries could then use the skills and labour of all citizens to put right all the decades of damage done to the built and unbuilt environments, the air and water quality, clean up the seas and re-orientate production for sustainability and need. Thus, at the same time, provide a good example for other countries to follow. What could be a better collective incentive than saving the planet and ensuring everybody has a decent home, enough food, drink, clothing, heating and health care?

Of course, that revolutionary-humanist perspective is not going to happen. Those who are in power and have led us into decades of existential mess, including this one are incapable of learning from mistakes – if their interests in obtaining wealth override the parts of their brains which should contain such insights as; for the want of a sustainable economy; the human species was lost. Instead, they will use their knowledge and ingenuity to block any change which would threaten the current hierarchical system and their parasitic place within it.

Their prefered alternative is to continue to despoil environments whilst still consuming far too much and the poor in their countries too little. Yet revolutionary transformations such as that indicated above will need to be done at some time and will need to be done in spite of elite opposition to it.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

[For details of the ‘dark secret’ of US bailout preferences see the following; http://www.counterpunch.org/2020/04/02/the-dark-secrets/ ]

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CORONA VIRUS PANDEMIC – 6.

A world upside down.

The primary target for all the financial measures taken by pandemic-struck governments has been to provide aid to industry, commerce and banking. Such ‘largesse’ is not actually to save the ‘people’ but the existing economic ‘system’. Even money given directly to working people, will go to landlords, electricity, water, gas and mortgage companies, and supermarkets etc. Some will keep them fed, watered and housed, but it will also find its way back to the economic elite.

In this way, the pandemic has starkly revealed that, for the pro – capitalist elites, the connection between people and economic activity is viewed upside down. They think ordinary people exist to serve the economy and not the other way around. For them economic activity definitely does not exist to serve the people. In fact capitalists view the entire world as existing to supply the needs of their economic system. Indeed, they and their major shareholders act as if the world is there to service them.

From the bourgeois perspective the ‘health of the economy’ has always been of more importance than the ‘health of the people’.

Only immediately after the Second World War, was that viewpoint muted in some countries. Welfare reforms, with health services, pensions, education, sickness benefits etc., were evidence of this. But even then the fundamental view – of all political shades of opinion – was that a healthy economy needed a healthy workforce. Even post 1945, the world was still viewed upside down. The reluctance to initiate an early quarantine lock-down and the bailout package in March 2020, indicated that protect the economy first was still the priority.

But that is nothing new. Among the pro-capitalist elites, left, right and centre, it has never crossed elite minds that economic activity should primarily serve the needs of the majority of people. That would require a genuine humanist perspective, which could not arise among an elite who need the heavy taxation of working people to support their well-heeled life – styles. Yet this upside-down elite view directly clashes with the perspective which arises among working people and from the natural world.

The hopes and dreams of many, if not most, working people is not to stop work and do nothing. Rather it is to earn enough (or win enough) to stop working in relentless mass – producing industries and to do so early enough to enjoy a fuller range of activities and experiences. Interestingly, that viewpoint is essentially a perspective also rooted in nature. For no other animal species labours all its active life so that it can support a relative small number of its species in extravagant luxury, while the rest struggle to survive.

Natural life, other than human, is based only upon securing a desirable level of basic needs, such as food, water, shelter and procreation. No other animal amasses non-essential products. Moreover, no other species engages in a mode of production which in pursuit of economic and social inequality, consciously degrades and destroys the ecological basis for its own survival. Capitalism is thus a totally unnatural mode of production.

Even more contradictions.

Previous zoonotic viral epidemics (eg EBOLA, AIDS, SERS, MERS etc.) have brought to the fore a further development of capitalism’s fundamental contradictions. By leaving no part of the world un-plundered and un-connected, its extractive activities incubate and then enable new strains of virus – that would have otherwise remained in their places of origin – to infect whole countries and regions. In addition the Covid-19 pandemic illustrates that these infections can now spread to the whole planet and restricts capitalism’s own economic activity to the supply of limited amounts of food, water and shelter.

The general response to this pandemic also reveals that capitalism has to be rescued from its eco-cidal, economic and financial follies, not by better capitalisms, (there are none) but, – as in 2008 – by non-profit based public service organisations. Without public services and governmental organisations stepping in, capitalists concerns would have collapsed progressively or continued production until everything collapsed. The socialised bailout and quarantine measures, needed to keep societies alive and ticking over due to this Covid-19 pandemic, show that competition and private capital could not have saved the world’s population from the worst. It took non-profit institutions – albeit some very badly managed ones –  to belatedly act to save the social system and many lives.

This pandemic also demonstrates that when crises of such magnitude occur, societies need the cooperation of all citizens to survive and function properly. It has also indicated something else. Social structures with pro-capitalists at the top wielding power, not only create the conditions for such epidemics to flourish and spread, but reveal that it is the bottom layers of society, the workers, (the least paid) who are the most important to societal maintenance and survival. It is they – as they do in normal times – who are keeping the health system, food distribution, water, electricity, sewage, rubbish removal and other essential services going.

The elite hide themselves away enjoying their perks and privileges, while the working class staff the front ranks again and give their energies and lives, to keep this new viral enemy at bay. True some elites meet in committee and push paper about, but it is not those who keep us directly supplied with essentials. Under capitalism it is clear, social importance and rewards are upside down, for even the rich need food, water, electricity, sewage processing etc., before they ‘need‘ anything else.

In normal periods as well as in crisis, the rich need working people more fundamentally than they need their own elite neighbours. We all depend not only the above named categories but teachers, engineers, technicians, plumbers, builders, transport workers etc. Crises sharply demonstrate we need working people, far more than the barely competent elites in Parliaments and governmental agencies. Yet the wage and salary levels do not reflect this. The world in 2020 and beyond, badly needs turning the right way up.

Roy Ratcliffe (April 2020)

Posted in Anti-Capitalism, capitalism, corona virus, Critique, neo-liberalism | Tagged | 1 Comment