Socialism is the Best Medicine

Socialism is the Best Medicine

We cannot expect capitalists to manage a pandemic

April 22, 2020

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It is unrealistic to expect capitalists to manage any social crisis. Their goal is to accumulate capital, which they do exceptionally well, as evidenced by their enormous wealth in a world where billions struggle to survive.

Capitalists are highly skilled at sustaining their rule. They prioritize military spending in order to defend and expand their wealth. They invest in politicians, scientists, journalists, authors, psychologists, and other ‘experts’ to promote their views and enforce their rules. They excel at finding ways to profit from disaster.

When it comes to protecting human beings, capitalists are absolutely abysmal. They have to be:

Extracting capital from human labor creates massive social and environmental harm. Capitalists cannot reduce this harm without lowering their profits and becoming less competitive. Whether or not they care about the damage they cause, they accept it as ‘the cost of doing business.’

Capitalists will invest in social supports, but only to the minimum necessary to sustain a profit-producing labor force. Whenever possible, they strive to cut costs by shifting responsibility for social care to individual families and charities.

The results are entirely predictable; capitalists have a 100 percent success rate for creating social problems and a 100 percent failure rate for solving them.

Unrealistic

The problem is not only that capitalists fail to meet human needs. That has been clear for centuries. The deeper problem is that the rest of us expect them to behave differently and are surprised and dismayed when they don’t.

It’s mind-boggling, actually, the degree of disorganization,” said Tom Frieden, former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director. The federal government has already squandered February and March, he noted, committing “epic failures” on testing kits, ventilator supply, protective equipment for health workers and contradictory public health communication.

We keep banging our heads against their wall, wanting capitalists to do what they cannot do and be who they cannot be. We point out their errors. We devise better policies for them to enact. We scold them when they fail to do what is needed. We expect them to behave, not as capitalists, but as the benevolent parent-guardians we crave. This is unrealistic.

It’s true; some capitalists are digging deep into their petty cash to counter the pandemic.

Jeff Bezos donated $100 million for food banks (less than 0.1 percent of his fortune). Bill Gates is funding research to develop a potentially profitable vaccine. Jack Ma, the richest person in China, pledged $14.5 million of his $44 billion fortune. The world’s richest family, the Waltons, donated $25 million of their $191 billion fortune. This is pure public relations.

The taxes that capitalists avoid paying would be more than enough to fund robust public health systems that could manage crises and prevent the spread of infection. Instead, they do the opposite:

Three months before COVID-19 appeared in China, the Trump administration defunded a global program to detect emerging new infections.

OXFAM called on wealthy countries to fund a global economic rescue package, including canceling trillions of dollars in debt payments to help poor countries contain the pandemic. The US not only refused to participate, President Trump stopped funding the World Health Organization.

Capitalists are not concerned about poor people dying in their own nation or anywhere else. On the contrary, they welcome a reduction in what they consider the ‘surplus population’ (those who cannot be profitably employed) and whose needs they treat as a ‘drain on the public purse.’ This is why people trapped in nursing homes, jails, psychiatric facilities, and immigrant and refugee detention are left to die of disease.

Because profits are their lifeblood, capitalists must prioritize profit-taking even over the need to protect the workers who produce those profits. This is why medical staff are warned not to complain about systemic failures that put them and their patients at risk, why workers who try to protect their coworkers are fired, and why millions of essential workers are denied the legal right to a safe workplace. That is why people go hungry, while mountains of food are destroyed, and why the COVID-19 death count is deliberately minimized to justify resuming production as quickly as possible.

Why are we shocked? To stay in business, capitalists must prioritize their own interests, even when it means throwing humanity under the bus. Their refusal to stop extracting fossil fuels or abandon nuclear weapons proves this.

Are we problems or problem-solvers?

To the capitalist class, ordinary people are problems: they want more pay; they want social supports; they want equality; they question the rules; they make demands; they demonstrate and strike; they are troublemakers.

Capitalists claim the right to be society’s only problem-solvers. However, they care to solve only one problem – how to accumulate more capital than their competitors.

Capitalists cannot allow workers to solve social problems because they might begin to question why they need a ruling class at all. And yet, the inability of capitalism to meet people’s needs forces workers to solve many problems, every day, in order to survive.

This crisis has revealed who are society’s real problem-solvers, not self-serving capitalist free-loaders, but the legion of workers whose labor is essential to sustain life.

Unlike capitalists, workers have the motivation, skills, and ability to cooperate that would make it possible to end war, inequality, poverty, pandemics, environmental pollution, and climate change. They could do what is necessary, without regard for profit.

Mass mobilization

There is only one way to get ahead of this pandemic: apply the three pillars of infectious disease control – test/trace/isolate. All three must be employed to break the chain of transmission.

Mass mobilization is needed to stop COVID-19. Everyone must be tested to identify who are infected. All their contacts must be traced. The infected and their contacts must be isolated. And everyone in quarantine must be supplied with what they need for as long as necessary.

The capitalist class refuse to mount such a response, nor will they allow the working class to do so. Unless this changes, there will be more unnecessary deaths, over a longer period of time, with even greater economic disruption.

Conclusion

We defer to the capitalist class only because we lack confidence in ourselves and each other to manage society without them. The result is mass suffering.

Never have an oppressed majority been more patient with their oppressors! They impose on us the harshest cruelties and deprivations, yet we forgive them again and again. When is enough, enough?

It’s time to put away our childish fantasies of how things should be, and face how they actually are. It’s time for us to grow up and take collective control of our lives.

Workers are experienced problem-solvers, and the most pressing problem we must solve is how to free ourselves from capitalist rule.

Capitalists cannot save us from this pandemic or any other crisis. We need to escort them to the exit and do the job ourselves.

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Great analysis as always, Susan!
    I hope you are managing through these extraordinary times.
    Thanks for your concise and no-holds-barred thoughts!
    May I share?

    Reply
    • Please share freely!
      Workers are not yet ready to take social control, and the first step to getting ready is discussing the need to do so.

      Reply
      • Excellent article on pandemic. Good job.

        Reply
  2. Wonderfully refreshing and incisive comments — in all of your materials that I’ve looked at, and in the materials you reference (Unnatural Causes, Money-Driven Medicine etc). Thank you for being a voice for sanity.

    As a family physician myself, with 45-odd years of experience — including incorporating insight-oriented psychotherapy into my small-town practice — I have been engaged in advocacy for years (e.g. Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Canadian Doctors for Medicare) on themes that resonate very much with yours, and those of an increasing number of clear-minded, thoughtful people. I don’t think the names are so important – socialism, capitalism, communism, ecumenism. I think the actual conduct of people is what counts, and the best conduct is built on the deepest reality of human nature, which is kindness, love and affection, and a delight in the joys of others.

    I just learned that Ayn Rand, beloved of the moneyed and privileged, most particularly in the US, once said “altruism is the poison of death in the blood of western civilization”; this goes a long way towards explaining the bizarre self-centredness of so many political leaders in that country, and their tolerance and even support for their current cheerfully narcissistic president.

    I found your comments on the essay “Donald Trump is not Crazy”, laying out the stigmatizing of rational dissent as a sign of mental illness, as a moving reminder of the experience of so many persons these days, whose deep concerns about the future of humankind are sometimes misconstrued as mental instability. Fortunately, I see signs of a deeper reality setting in, as every larger numbers of mental health practitioners realize that action to mitigate ecological disasters is the key to mental health — just as it is in the political realm overall.

    Thank you for being a steadfast and articulate proponent of a deeper kind of sanity.

    Reply
  3. Joining Warren, thank you for being a voice for sanity. Please count me as a reader in future.

    Reply
    • Thank you for this Susan.
      I will share with the rest of my family and extended family/friends.

      Reply
  4. As always, insightful and hitting the nail on the head, so to speak.

    May I add, the solution to this capitalist crisis lies in the need for the working class to build their own organization; an organization led by and for workers. We still do not have such an organization, which the ruling class is well aware of.

    The Bolsheviks, were such an organization; they started off as a working class organization committed to the overthrow of the old capitalist order during the Russian Revolution, but were destroyed by the military intervention by the ruling classes of many countries who launched their slanderous anti-worker, anti-communist war against the struggling workers’ party led by Lenin.

    If those capitalist countries each had their own working class organizations that were rising up against them, they would not have been able to invade Bolshevik Russia to battle a working-class uprising outside their own borders.

    Reply
  5. This morning on Co-op Radio here in Vancouver I listened to Naomi Klein in an interview with Intercept called “screen new deal” which confirmed my suspicion that governments are preparing for the PPP (private/public partnership) that has been ongoing, implemented for the benefit of the greedy billionaires getting bailouts as per the banks in U.S. 2008.

    I also spoke to a bus driver who said that many are losing their jobs. It is a small consolation for me to hear from you that the working class is not yet ready to act en masse. However, it does explain why it is so difficult to get more people aware, awake, and willing to fight for their collective struggle to survive.

    For too long, as I see it, so many people are stuck in their own private family bubble of not fully understanding why we are being strangled into more subservience and that each family, on their own, is expected by the system to take up the slack of Caregiving that does not come from their governments. The money that was provided for some for the 3 months, while better spent than the Military budget, will have to be re-collected thru yet more taxation of the working class.

    Reply

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