By Nikos Mottas.
As of this writing, there are 140,214 Coronavirus (COVID-19) cases worldwide while the number of deaths mount to 5,123. China remains at the top of the countries with the most confirmed cases and casualties, while the epidemic situation seems to be particularly intense in Italy, Iran, South Korea and Spain.
The outbreak of Coronavirus has sparked huge uncertainty in global markets, while financial analysts are already predicting a new international economic recession. Last week, the OECD lowered its forecast for 2020 GDP growth from 2,9% to 2,4%, while the IMF warned that the disease’s spread has already pushed global growth in 2020 to below last year’s levels. The rapid outbreak of Coronavirus in Europe has pushed the eurozone’s wobbly economy toward recession, boosting fears about a severe slowdown in EU’s economic growth.
Beyond the concerns of financial analysts about the impact of Coronavirus outbreak in global economy, the new epidemic highlights the tragic inefficiences of the capitalist system itself. What is being proved, throughout the world, is that a system based on profit – where scientific research and healthcare consist a field of profitability for the capital – poses great dangers for the health and the well-being of the working people and the popular strata.
The theory of “cost and profit” prevents the utilization of the immense capabilities that exist in scientific knowledge, technological-pharmaceutical means and specialized staff for the prevention and treatment of new diseases. It is characteristic that the novel Coronavirus is genetically closely related to the SARS-CoV-1 virus, which had emerged at the end of 2002 in China causing more than 8,000 cases in 33 countries over a period of eight months . As Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor at Yale School of Public Health points out, “had we not set the SARS-vaccine-research program aside, we would had a lot more of this foundational work that we could apply to this new, closely related virus” .
However, once the emergency sense lifted, government funding and medical-pharmaceutical industry development evaporated. “Some very early research ended up sitting on a shelf because that outbreak ended before a vaccine needed to be aggressively developed”, adds professor Schwartz.
Things are as simple as that: The only criterion of the pharmaceutical industry on research, production and distribution of its products is nothing else but the assurance of high profitability. Even if a medication, or a vaccine, has been created, it won’t be produced if the factor of profitability is not ensured. The case of Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa a few years ago is indicative of the tragic consequences that the private ownership in the means of production has for the people. That is what happens in capitalism, where the sectors of scientific research and production are not guided by the social needs, but by the capital’s need for more and more profits, especially in conditions of severe competition between monopoly groups.
Coronavirus pandemic reminds us of the significant underfunding of scientific medical research by the bourgeois governments. The fierce competitions between powerful imperialist and monopoly centers for the control of energy resources have led to the increase of military spending both in Europe and the United States.
According to SIPRI, global military expenditure reached a record high in 2018, amounted to $1,822 billion, an increase of 2.6% from 2017. With the U.S. and China leading the arms race, total global spending is in the highest point since 1988. U.S military spending grew, for first time since 2010, by 4.6% to reach $649 billion in 2018 .
While the U.S. government increases military expenditure, it cuts funding for science and medical research. The 2008 capitalist financial crisis and the intensification of austerity and privatization measures in Europe led public health systems at a breaking point. Healthcare systems became a target of anti-people policies facing significant cuts, while sectors of public health were privatized.
Coronavirus, like any pandemic, reveals the sharpening of social inequalities. That because the primary victims throughout the world are the working men and women, the poor popular strata, the people who have no, or very restricted, access to advanced medical care.
It’s not the elite, the billionaires and the industrialists who are exposed to the pandemic, but the millions of the workers, men and women, who need to be in their job positions every single day, under any circumstances; those people who are subject to the employers’ blackmails and terrorism.
In Greece, for example, there are numerous cases where employers have refused to provide leaves of absense from work to employees who need to stay with their children, or elderly relatives, at home due to emergency preventive reasons. But even when employers give leave days, they refuse to pay the employees, or cut these days from the workers’ annual holiday leave .
The real pandemic is capitalism
Coronavirus has exposed the deadly inefficiencies of the exploitative system. Despite the emergency measures that were taken, Europe and the US were caught unprepared to deal with the virus outbreak. The reason behind this inefficiency is directly related to the theory of “cost and profit” which is dominant in capitalist economies and which transforms the universal right to free healthcare into commodity.
In China there was a huge mobilization of the state in order to face Coronavirus outbreak. However, today’s China is far from being a socialist country with the marxist-leninist definition of “socialism”. The dominance of capitalist relations and the application of the so-called “market socialism” have contributed to the weaking of the country’s healthcare system, highlighting significant inefficiencies in the state mechanism’s capability to deal with emergency situations.
But even this China, a country of 1.38 billion people with a degenerated – capitalist infected – “socialism”, did a much better job than the purely capitalist states of the western hemisphere. Those who point their finger against China blaming Beijing for its response to the virus outbreak should first take a look at the disastrous effects of capitalist development in the rest of the world.
We must therefore draw conclusions from the Coronavirus case. Thirty years since the counterrevolutionary events in the Soviet Union and East Europe, the rotten capitalist system consists the most dangerous “pandemic” for humanity. The demand for free public healthcare must be in the forefront of the struggle of the working class movement in every corner of the world, without any compromises.
The counterattack of the workers-people’s movement is an one-way road with no alternatives. Only the socialization of the means of productios under workers’ control can lead to a development that will have as a priority the benefit of the masses. Only then, the people will be able to utilize the immense capabilities of science and technology for their own prosperity and progress.
The destruction of capitalism and the birth of a new society, the socialist-communist one, is the most secure and effective “vaccine” for humanity’s salvation.