Capitalism: the real pandemic – Socialist Party for Freedom
Eighteen months after last pandemic, many observations can be made about the origins and responses to the Covid-19 virus. The 24-hour news cycle and lack of critical analysis has left much of the world’s population uninformed, confused and seemingly helpless in the face of a real health crisis. No doubt there will be – and there should be – volumes of work examining this episode. The goal, as always, is not simply to understand the situation, but to change it. Revealed, once again, is that capitalism is not a way to run the planet. But what is the “how and why” of this failure?
There was loud and largely irrelevant commotion over the exact genesis of the outbreak. The United States and its allies seek to point the finger at China, with dark and totally unfounded rumors of deliberate releases of a “weaponized” virus. Or, alternatively, gross negligence in the handling of biological research by the Chinese. This is geopolitics at work, no more and no less.
Of course, it is necessary to find the path of this pathogen in the human population. This can only help to face the next pandemic. But he does not attack the ultimate cause of these scourges. The expert consensus is that it is not a question of whether there will be another planetary health emergency. It’s a question of when.
So what do we know about the source of Covid-19? It is zoonotic, which means it comes from a population of non-human animals. The broad consensus is that underlying all zoonotic diseases is the rapid encroachment of human populations into previously isolated areas. Either people are moving into territories occupied by “alien” species, or rapid deforestation and land clearing is causing these species to move into densely populated urban environments.
And this is the real genesis of the pandemic, in fact of all the pandemics recorded for 1,000 years. The difference is that the disturbance is accelerating and it is uncontrolled.
Here is a sobering truth: the greatest influence on the earth’s climate is not the sun, which is unlimited, at least on a human scale. It is a human activity. The future of the global biosphere depends on a single species. It is described as a new geological period: the Anthropocene. In almost every way imaginable, the natural cycles and rhythms of the planet are now distorted almost to the breaking point. The Covid crisis is the result of a specific type of climate change.
The “new normal” has become the marketing slogan for the so-called “new era” – life with the virus. But there is no new era: we are living a normal capitalism! This latest of the global health crises, along with all the other consequences of climate change, is the result of the imposition of a largely chaotic process of capitalist wealth accumulation driven solely by the pursuit of even more wealth. Layer this on the planet’s closed system of self-limiting environmental processes and the result can only be chaos. At least in the short term.
The problem is that while the system settles into a different balance, humans – and many other species – face catastrophe. We now live in a place shaken by the gusts of an approaching global storm.
Southeast Australia is currently struggling with the effects of a destructive super storm. This follows massive flooding in the northeast interior, the devastating firestorms of the penultimate summer and the subtropical cyclone that recently wreaked havoc in the southwest of the continent. Globally, the disruption of weather systems and the prevalence of extreme weather events looks like the true “new normal”.
What turns out to have been the immediate trigger for the pandemic is simply not the issue.
What is clear in the responses to the crisis is that no one is in the driver’s seat of this runaway economic train. Even the super-rich are just luxury passengers. (The rest of us mostly have the cattle cars in the back!) Vaccines didn’t develop out of “market operation” – they exist as a result of direct state intervention. Proof, incidentally, of what can be achieved with a hint of direction. Further proof that the resources to deal with such crises exist. They are just hoarded and then distributed by a tiny minority. The farce of “balanced budgets” and laissez-faire regulation has been on display time and time again in the current crisis, as governments open safes and print money to prop up virus-stricken economies.
Meanwhile, the company largely continues to operate. No thanks to billionaires and shareholders. No thanks to Capital. In the end, as always, it is the billions of workers, small entrepreneurs and agricultural workers who make things happen. It was quite telling when the Victorian state government defined an “essential worker” as (almost) anyone with a job! Indeed.
We are by no means free of this current health crisis. And we can only plan for the next inevitable universal contagion. Unless we enter the locomotive and apply the commands! There is no Planet B; there is no other option. The human community is now the dominant global climate driver. Human systems must integrate with all other planetary processes. First Nations peoples invariably refer to their guardianship of the land. It is a perspective that the whole species must adopt. It seems trivial to claim that we are from this planet, but that is precisely the philosophy that the proponents of capitalism are fighting fiercely and relentlessly to suppress.
The pandemic has made the current reality of climate change clear, made it local, made it personal – for each of us, not just the direct victims of so-called natural disasters. Capitalism’s pervasive encroachment on all ecological processes means that none of these life-changing events are part of normal earth processes.
Capitalism is the ultimate virus and we, acting together, will be the vaccine.
Workers build and operate the infrastructure of society. We do not control it, but it is what we must do to avoid the catastrophe that threatens. The sooner we all decide that we must not let our home be destroyed around us, the sooner we can begin the task of healing our societies and restoring the rhythms and processes of the planet, making the Anthropocene a brief aberration. in the history of the Earth.
This article was originally published in June 2021 socialist freedom organizer, the Australian voice of revolutionary feminism. Send your comments to [email protected]