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Swine Flu and the Working Class
Two weeks ago came the first news about an epidemic, known as "swine flu", appeared in Mexico; according to statements by the Mexican Minister of Health, it was a "highly contagious mutant virus” which had moved from pigs to humans.
The alert triggered in the U.S. and Europe was accompanied by the information that it was already responsible for 20 "confirmed" deaths with forty still being “verified”. Day after day these news have made the headlines in newspapers and on television.
The WHO (World Health Organization) immediately gave the alarm, stating that the contagion could spread to the world, mainly through air travel. Over a few days the alert level was elevated continuously, from Level 3 to Level 4 and then 5: "'Pandemic threat”. The large pharmaceutical industries, already alerted by the avian flu (which has proven to be a gigantic bluff) immediately undertook every effort to provide the health services of various countries with thousands of antiviral drugs (such as Tamiflu by Roche, which soon became a star on primetime TV ).
In a few days the panic over swine fever has spread around the world.
In Mexico it was the immediate closing of schools, stadiums, museums, libraries, universities, along with the use of surgical masks protecting mouth and nose that appeared to symbolize the "seriousness" of the situation! Even a single infected individual (real or imagined) in a country reved up the media machine that fueled the urgency and the fear of coming into contact with anyone who became ill!
According to media reports, in Mexico there are around 3,000 cases and 150 deaths (but from this total there were no more than 20 deaths actually caused by the fever), 1 death in the United States and a dozen patients, one case in Europe and only a handful in the rest of the world .
What kind of alarm should have been raised when, this past winter, during the European epidemic of influenza and respiratory diseases, there were 6,000 deaths in France alone (1) and probably as many in other countries – that is in the super-developed countries, with ultra-modern hospitals, pharmaceutical and health services? Faced with real epidemics that regularly occur each winter, capitalist society is only equipped to sell quantities of medicines and vaccines (usually also unnecessary or even harmful) and bury the dead. And the same thing occurs in summer during heatwave episodes!
One must not underestimate the danger that a disease can cause when it takes an epidemic form, a society that really has as a priority the welfare and health of mankind, would organize social life to meet that goal.
But this is not the priority of bourgeois society, the same as its priority is not the preservation of the environment and nature in which humanity lives. As in every "natural" disaster (earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, etc..) negligent deaths and massive destruction are in fact the responsibility of a social organization based only on the search for profit: it is the search for the quickest profit that induces construction in areas prone to flooding, to economize on anti-seismic measures, etc..
Faced with a threat of epidemic, the society of Capital reacts in the same fashion, trying to "do business", either by selling drugs, newspapers or by obtaining additional grants for its "health organization" more panic spreads, the more we sell: all participants in the "panic" win, whether they be doctors, industrialists, owners of newspapers or parish priests.
But there is another aspect.
Spreading the panic, the bourgeoisie accentuates in the proletariat the feeling of powerlessness against superior forces that influence its fate and against which there is no possibility of resistance – be these forces a deadly virus or the "laws of economy”. And, at the same time, the ruling class and its state reinforce their apparent omnipotence by providing "solutions", presented as the only possiblity: in the case of the epidemic, drugs and other vaccines, in the case of economic crisis such or such measures, anti-worker measures. Moreover, the capitalists feel that they control the situation, the more their domination over the proletarian masses is unquestioned, the more easily they can falsify reality: their propaganda is that of half-truths and open lies, guilty silence during the phases of prevention (which are never realized) and deafening noise during phases of speculation.
Even on such occasions proletarians are encouraged to put their lives, their health, their future, in the hands of capitalists . It is well known, for example, that bourgeois society is incapable of providing a real solution to respiratory diseases caused by the poisonous atmosphere of large cities (Mexico City is one of the most polluted) rather than by all avian or swine influenza epidemics. There is no alert by the WHO, because to cure it, the destruction of capitalism – which causes the split between the rural areas and the city and stifles millions of proletarians in huge cities – is necessary !
Consequently, it’s the masses and the working poor who are always the most affected by every disease; periods of economic crisis thrust whole segments of the population into misery, even in the richest capitalist countries; – further exacerbating this phenomenon.
Bourgeois society which can only solve its crisis by impoverishing the masses, is not more "humane", more attentive to the needs of the proletariat; by nature it can only strive to exploit the forces of the workers to enhance the profitability of capital, ie to earn a profit at any cost, whatever the cost in terms of health or people's lives or the looting of nature.
The proletarians must not expect from the capitalist class and its state any cure for their ills, any solution to their miseries. When the bourgeois concede a few crumbs to workers, it’s either because they were forced by their classist struggle; or because they want to paralyze them pitting against each other in order to prepare for much more horrifying events: those of wars!
Against the bourgeois propaganda campaigns, aimed to sow widespread panic and helplessness among the exploited, the proletarians have to ascend onto an entirely different field: the field of class confrontation, the only one where their organized force can be reconstituted, the field on which solidarity can become real and unity effective, capable of thwarting all political and ideological influences spread by the bourgeoisie to infect the proletarians and subjugate them.
The working class has an historic task to perform: to destroy bourgeois society which is no longer capable of bringing any progress for humanity. To get rid of bourgeois society, with its capitalist mode of production, with its market, with its wars, with its ideology, propaganda and lies, will be only possible when the proletariat takes control of its own destiny, reconstitutes its class party, armed with the science that can decipher the contradictions of capitalism and sets the path to revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and communism: Marxism.
Then the panic will switch sides and hit the ruling class, terrified by the prospect of losing its privileges, its wealth, its domination; then, the chains that bind the proletariat will be finally broken and capitalism, its society and all its rotten institutions, including the "social" and "health" ones, will be thrown into the dustbin of history.
(1) figures of the "Weekly Epidemiological Bulletin" (April 15/09) for the first two months of 2009.
International Communist Party
May 4th, 2009
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