Unable to control the outbreak, the bourgeoisie uses it to tighten its social and political control
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 16; Spring-Summer 2020)
The new coronavirus, initially called 2019-nCoV (new coronavirus 2019), then Covid19, belongs to a vast family of viruses causing illnesses ranging from the common cold to the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) to the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). It first appeared in Wuhan, a big industrial city in Hubei, China.
The World Health Organization (WHO) issued its first notice on the Covid19 on December 31, 2019; but some medias (like the New York Times) have revealed that this coronavirus had been identified as soon as last October: the Chinese authorities have concealed their information for more than two months – like they had done with the SRAS in 2009 – out of fear that this new epidemic would be bad for business… which it eventually turned out to be in January and February 2020, not only in China, but worldwide, with the global economy suffering and set to keep suffering important damage.
Everyone has heard of Dr Li Wenliang: he is the one who first raised a flag about this new virus and the menace of an epidemic; it got him arrested, and the Chinese authorities forced him to retract publically. In the end, they had to let him go so that he could resume his work; but, having been infected too, he eventually died in early February. Given the seriousness of this new illness and how easily it had spread in Wuhan, in China and elsewhere, because of the many commerce ties between Wuhan’s companies and the rest of the world, the issue couldn’t have been concealed for much longer.
As soon as January 30, one month after the WHO issued its notice, the official death toll in China was only 169, while there were 7,000 infected worldwide (China, Honk Kong, South Korea, Vietnam, Japan – the cruise ship Diamond Princess stranded in Yokohama with 3,700 people on board – and elsewhere).
Thanks to the various researches in hospitals and institutes around the world, the means to detect this new virus’s presence have become more effective. As a consequence, the number of people officially infected has risen sharply. On February 12 there were more than 45,000 worldwide (44,700 in China) and 1,100 had died; on February 25, there were 80,350 and 2,705 had died, most of them (2,663) in China, especially in the Hubei province, source of the outbreak.
Just as it had with the MERS and the SARS, once again bourgeois science demonstrates its obedience – it cannot be any other way in a bourgeois society – to the market, to the capitalist profit’s economy. The very fact that the Chinese authorities have concealed the information for months has resulted in a huge delay in the first measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus; but the conditions of life themselves, the hygiene and the enormous mass of people in this megalopolis that looks like a gigantic hive of activity, pave the way for uncontrollable outbreaks, outbreaks that, because of the modern means of transportation, quickly spread around the world.
After the containment failed, what have the Chinese authorities done? They have isolated cities and rural areas: according to the medias, the inhabitants of Wuhan and its province have been completely cut off, confined to their homes. Cities and districts all over China are becoming militarized areas and experience martial law.
And what do the authorities in other countries do when a new outbreak of Covid19 appears? They isolate cities and neighboring territories, like they have in Italy in the ten municipalities of Lodigiano and the municipality of Vo’ Euganeo, near Padua. On January 30, Italy decided to suspend all flights to and from China; Russia did the same a bit later, closing its borders with China and other Asian countries. However, after new outbreaks had been identified in Italy, other countries like Austria and Bulgaria, along with countries that used to welcome many Italian tourists, like Mauritius, Seychelles, Jordan or even Kuwait, all decided to close their gates to Italians.
It is telling that, confronted to events like this new coronavirus, and even more so when they affect not one country but “the whole world”, the medias rush into reporting, broadcast pictures, videos and all sorts of interviews; by doing so, they feed an excessive anxiety about events that, in a society where distrust, fear, uncertainty, insecurity are everywhere, can easily lead to a panic. The first reaction is then to blame the threat on the “outsider” who doesn’t belong to the close world of one’s family, country or social strata. Then it’s “down with poisoners!” who during the Great Plague were blamed for the illness, “down with Chinese!” treated like they were all carrying a mortal disease, “down with Italians!” like it has recently happened after the apparition of outbreaks in Lombardi and Venetia: now the very civilized Italians (among whom one would have no difficulty finding racists) are having a taste of the same “medicine” once given to Jews, Roms, immigrants, etc.
Of course, such an epidemic must not be treated lightly, and that would be true for measles, cholera, or any other illness.
But every winter sees the spread of various flu viruses that affect an important percentage of the population and kill thousands, in particular among elders and people already weakened by other diseases. These deaths don’t move the authorities or the medias: vaccines already exist on the market, and many medicines are sold to address the effects of this flu. When a new virus appear, it’s another matter: then, all the pharmaceutical companies in the world try to find a vaccine that could be used and with which they could make astronomical profits – especially if the authorities make vaccination almost mandatory (like they did with the avian flu). As always, business is business, and it’s even better if “the health of the public” can serve as a pretext!
But there is yet another aspect that should be noted in the way the bourgeoisie handles such events, an aspect that concerns primarily the proletariat.
Something else spreads with the coronavirus: fear, in the face of what looks like an ill that only the capitalist society, with its science and its resources, the capitalist society that supposedly does everything it can to save as many people as possible, can fight…
It’s like saying: proletarians, you have no other choice but to leave it to the capitalists, who own the financial, economic, political and military means, to “protect” you from these ills that cannot be prevented, except maybe in the future, when science will have made progress…
For the bourgeoisie’s interests don’t lie solely in the business and profits it makes with every tragedy, every catastrophe; they also lie in the attitude the proletariat adopts in the face of the problems generated by such catastrophes. It is in the bourgeoisie’s interest that the proletariat not only abide by the requirements of the capitalist class every day of its life; but that it also be convinced that there’s no alternative to bourgeois rule. And, to that end, the ruling class uses each and every mean that proves effective: from traditional reformists to scientists paid to spread, at the same time, fear and an unshakable belief in the almighty efficiency of bourgeois science; from authoritarianism, with all its police and military forces, to religions inviting people to pray to a god who, after having sent ills to Earth, would then make them go away…
Capitalism will never change; it will never organize society according to the requirements of human health: business, capitalist profit, are radically opposed to the needs of human life and health. It’s capitalism that has to go! In other words, we must get rid of this mode of production and social domination, get rid of it for good, and replace it with a society centered on the needs of the human species, in harmony with itself and nature.
History has taught the bourgeoisie that the proletariat is the only social power able to confront it and shatter its own political and military power. By becoming the new ruling class, the proletariat can then apply its political program, aimed first at eliminating the bourgeoisie as a class (i.e.: not only as a ruling class), then at eliminating itself as a proletarian class as well; indeed, the new mode of production established by the dictatorship of the proletariat won’t be based on capital’s exploitation of wage labor in an economy that turns everything, living beings included, into commodities; it will be based on the actual needs of the human species’ social life, it will get rid of all division of society in classes, and therefore of all exploitation of man by man.
Only in such a society can all potentially positive discoveries be actually used for the benefit of human beings, rather than for markets; only in such a society can all activities potentially nefarious to humanity’s present and future be eliminated. Then, prevention will be a fundamental aspect of science, because this new science will be able to make progresses only dreamt of (at best!) by a bourgeois science entirely determined by the interests of the economy of disaster that is capitalism!
March, 1st 2020
International Communist Party