Sunday, April 12, 2020

Coronavirus. A Catalyst for Change?

 People are running out of food, they are without jobs and have no income, and many are growing scared, millions living in poverty, millions more on the verge of poverty, and stagnating wages. Deindustrialisation, privatisation, and deregulation, has created millions of working-poor who live on credit are who are deep in inescapable debt. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, capitalism was already in dire straits, and entering another recession.

People were barely surviving before this crisis and now they will be lucky to survive the unfolding crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a spotlight on this capitalist system. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the brutality of capitalism. We are seeing the things as they really are and the smoke and mirrors of the capitalist apologists are being removed. The multitude of injustices and  inequalities that existed before the pandemic are now being exacerbated. If theworld struggles to handle this pandemic, how is it going to cope with the climate emergency when it fully impacts. How can we expect the capitalist elite to behave in the context of rapid ecological collapse? If the State is only capable of providing the minimal assistance to working people, how can we expect the State to respond in the context of multi-layered crises unfolding at a rapid pace over a short period of time, crises that will undoubtedly require massive state intervention in the economy?

Without question, capitalism will survive the pandemic. The real question is will working people permit it to return to business as usual , will we allow normal service to resume. There is another direction, a different path to choose that leads to collectivism and cooperation. For socialiats we must ask ourselves how can we can take political advantage of the contradictions within the system, how we can expose the inherent limitations of the profit system and capital accumulation? Time is running out. Now is the time for alternatives. The stakes couldn’t be higher. If we hope to survive the pandemic, society must redirect the resources it’s currently spending on weapons and the waste of consumerism, and instead provide what people need - for free. Every single aspect of our society is under extreme stress. Even the most passive populations can only take so much. Human beings can only take so much. The living world can only take so much. Eventually, things will explode. 

Another question is will the poor respond with despair and apathy or react with righteous anger and rage? And if so, who will be the target of anger and rage be directed toward? Each other? Or the powerful elites?

The peoples of the planet are ripe for radical political change, but that change doesn’t necessarily have to be progressive in nature. It could also be reactionary and fueled by religious extremism, xenophobia, racism, and tribalism. That’s up to us socialists to present a positive vision of a possible future.

We must think about the permanent solution to the problems of the world. To try to fix a broken system with broken tools simply doesn’t work. By virtue of the present system itself society is unsocial in every aspect of the word. No reforms or palliatives can possibly improve the condition of the working class for any period, it is the wages system that is the cause of all the ills which are rampant to-day, and until that system is abolished the Socialist Party can confidently predict that the condition of the working class will gradually become worse. Socialism is the only system yet advanced which claims to offer humanity a world devoid of poverty. The Socialist Party does not desire to impose any rules or conditions on society. All he asks is that society will consciously apply principles for the benefit of society as a whole.

History has been tales of misery, exploitation and oppression, barbaric cruelty, repression and the horrors of war. These have not been the exception but the rule. On the one hand a tiny minority have lived in all the luxury. On the other the majority who have waged a life-long struggle simply to survive. From our experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic we no longer need the Marxists to tell us that it working people who are the source of wealth. We make society run smoothly.

We are living under a system which is more and more clearly revealed as the enemy of humanity. It has vast productive potential, but only means poverty and oppression. It brings hunger and deprivation to the working people. It imposes draconian cuts in living standards on the already suffering poor  simply in the interest of still greater profits for the capitalist class. Capitalism is responsible for the thoughtless destruction of the environment. The profit motive is incompatible with safeguarding the world’s resources. So long as it is profitable, environmental destruction is perfectly ’logical’ under capitalism. There is destruction of indigenous people and their sustainable ways of life; hijacking of fertile land for cash-crops and clearance of forest for cattle ranching. Humanity’s problem is not limited resources but the waste of resources which is an essential part of the process of capital accumulation.

 Its armaments industry monopolises most of the world’s research and development and cynically profits from a series of local wars of unparalleled destructiveness. The root cause of all this is capitalism’s guiding principle, the quest for profit, which takes precedence over any human interest. Capitalism as a system undermines the future of humanity. Today more than ever capitalism brings nothing but misery and exploitation. It is an obsolete system, and the productive forces and technology it has created will be turned to the benefit of humanity as a whole under a new social system.

Capitalism cannot be reformed. Today the destructive threat of capitalism is so acute that humanity cannot afford the luxury of tinkering with palliatives. It has undergone many changes in its history, but these have simply meant finding new ways to exploit the labouring people. The only solution is to end it and build a new social system. Worldwide, an upsurge of socialism is bound to come. It is more and more apparent that profit is an absurd principle by which to organise the world’s resources.

The socialist society of the future will draw its strength from the new organisational forms thrown up by the workers’ movement.
The most vulnerable members of society will suffer the worst consequences, of the COVID-19 and accompanying economic crises particularly those who live in the places which lack even basic health services. How can a billion people dwelling in over-crowded slums with minimal sanitation practice social distancing or to wash hands . 

The pandemic prospects are terrifying for the millions of migrants and displaced people, those in prison, the homeless and those who already live in disaster-prone areas. Not only are they most exposed to infection, but they are least able to access quality healthcare, and who will most impacted by the loss of income because of a lock-down. No government support packages can be expected by the world’s millions of refugees left to fend for themselves in camps. 

For many developing low-income countries, the current coronavirus crisis could become a ‘double whammy’ that exacerbates existing humanitarian challenges, such as conflicts, droughts, the locust plague or endemic poverty. Healthcare systems are already overburdened in such countries, especially where austerity cuts have been imposed on government public services. Scores of countries have endured waves of fiscal cut-backs and curtailed labour rights for those in the informal work sector. The consequences are predicted to be devastating for under-resourced governments that are reeling from other humanitarian catastrophes.

The journalist, John Pilger, has reminded us, deaths from Covid-19 still pale in comparison with the 24,600 people who unnecessarily die from starvation every day, or the 3,000 children who die from preventable malaria. Not to mention other diseases of poverty like tuberculosis or pneumonia, or the cholera crisis in Yemen, or the countless daily deaths due to economic sanctions in countries like Venezuela and Iran. No pandemic or global emergency has ever been declared for these people.

Will Covid-19 therefore awaken us to the stark inequalities and injustices of our world, or will it simply represent a new cause of impoverishment for vast swathes of humanity who have long been disregarded by the public’s conscience?

The developing world is already in turmoil due to the drop in price of commodity prices and fall in foreign direct investment, a collapse in tourism and the weakening of their own domestic economies.. Already heavily indebted to global lenders, with reduced exports, lack of foreign currency reserves and now an expected increase in borrowing costs, raising the prospect of a new debt crisis for south-east Asia, Latin America and Africa these regions could descend into chaos. 

We have created abundance for all but capitalism has manufactured scarcity.

Campaigners of every type are rolling out their agendas, envisioning the crisis as potentially kick-starting a more just and sustainable economy. The reasons for optimism are that major economies are now subject to state interventions on a colossal scale which have directly contradicted the prevailing ideology of the neo-liberal free has operated across the world for several decades now. 

Governments are forced to undertake economic planning in order to avert a public health and economic catastrophe, particularly by rolling back punitive austerity measures and the privatisation of public services. State-imposed lockdowns have necessitated welfare safety-net policies that were previously unthinkable. But there has been little alternative to governments stepping in to secure the livelihoods of millions of people. It has de-bunked the myths that the State cannot afford to implement radical social reforms. The question is when the worst of the pandemic is over, what will be the response of working people when such State protection, albeit limited, is withdrawn. Beyond this emergency relief, will people recognise the urgent need to transform the global economy in the longer term.
The burden of paying the price of the 2008 recession was not shouldered by the elite and the wealthy but landed upon on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable. Will this be different with respect that many of us have now learned our place in society - as essential key workers?

The Socialist Party envisions a society where the evaluation what should be produced and be allocated the necessary resources should be based on what is essential and what is actually needed. 

 In many ways the lockdowns and self-isolating restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic means this is happening right before our us.

 The Socialist Party suggests that this rational approach to producing for peoples needs rather than the socially superfluous drive to simply make a profit for owners or share-holders in businesses must be made permanent. The capitalist market system has been revealed to hold fundamental weakness which does not serve the welfare of the people and even now it is being haphazardly made to be fit for purpose by identifying those key workers which makes the world run smoothly and directing supplies, equipment and personnel to those vital services and industries by what can be described as ad hoc improvised socialistic solutions. 

The Socialist Party is saying is that society should be organised in this planned way all the time. Ignore those who claim the transition to socialism takes decades - it can be achieved very quickly. From each according to their ability, to each according to their needs right now.
It turns out that we can function without stock-brokers , but we really cannot function without nurses, doctors, care workers, delivery drivers, the stackers of supermarket shelves or good neighbours. The chaos, panic and the human cost caused by the coronavirus has exposed the deep faultlines of the capitalist system. 

Not only is COVID-19 killing people but it is also killing the trust and faith in the current world order. For sure in some countries this is being seen in the rise of populist authoritarian nationalism. Yet the pandemic is showing that none of us is safe until all of us are safe. Walls and fences may give the protectionist populists a few more votes, but cannot ensure safety and security for all. No one country can win this fight on its own. International cooperation and solidarity is proving it is saving lives. This compassion and altruism is spreading to every street, every neighbourhood, every city and every country. If capitalism continues its carnage we will suffer more and more “natural” disasters.
While acknowledging the benefits of what environmentalist describe as localism, many socialists are still sceptical that it a complete solution to the problems of production, for example, they view scales of economy as important determinations of where and what is produced, as well as climate differences. Off-shoring and out-sourcing has been the trend of capitalism’s development.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerability of depending upon multinational global supply chains to produce manufactured goods with the absence of reserves due to the lean logistical “just-in-time” supply systems which can’t cope with sudden disruptions. As supply chains are disrupted through factory closures and border closings, shortages in household items, medications, and food will begin surfacing, leading to rounds of panic buying that will only exacerbate the situation. When machine tool manufacturer is in one country, the textile industry in another, the steel industry in yet another, the whole thing becomes much more fragile and inefficient.

Capitalists through their control of governments, finance, business, and media,have succeeded in transforming the world into a globalised market-based system, loosening regulatory controls, weakening social safety nets, reducing taxes, and virtually demolishing the power of organsed labor. The triumph of world capitalism has led to the greatest inequality in history, where the world’s twenty-six richest people own as much wealth as half the entire world’s population. It has allowed the largest transnational corporations to establish a stranglehold over other forms of organisation, with the result that, of the world’s hundred largest economies, sixty-nine are corporations.

The Covid-19 disaster represents an opportunity for humanity to progress and advance. From an evolutionary perspective, a defining characteristic of humanity is our set of pro-social impulses—fairness, altruism, and compassion—that cause us to identify with something larger than our own individual needs. The compassionate responses that have arisen in the wake of the pandemic are not surprising—they are the expected, natural human response to others in need. If we can change the basis of our global civilisation from one that is capital accumulationto one that is life-affirming, then we have a chance to create a flourishing future for humanity. The whole world is reeling from the COVID-19 disaster that is affecting us all. Yet mutual aid and self-help groups are emerging everywhere to help those in need. People are rediscovering that they are far stronger as a community than as isolated individuals and Covid-19 is bringing people closer together in solidarity than ever before. This rediscovery of the value of community has the potential to be the most important factor of all in shaping the trajectory of the next era. New ideas and political possibilities are critically important on which everything else is built.

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