To be buried by capitalism or to free the entire Earth from a vampiric system?
In the following we publish the conclusion of this article attempting to situate the corona-virus pandemic and its consequences in a broader perspective and from different angles. The previous three parts are also available on this blog:
Part I: §1 Commodity, Commerce and Confinement; §2 The Precedent of the Spanish Flu: Defense Secrets, Brainwashing and War Economy to better cut up the Cannon Fodder. (Online: March 31, 2020, ‘AFRD’ Vol.4#2 (April – June 2020) p.9 ff.)
Part II: §3 Capitalism, Imperialism and the War of Microbes.
(Online: July 4, 2020, ‘AFRD’ Vol.4#3 (July – September 2020) p.19 ff.)
Part III: §4 The destruction of health systems and of the ecosystem. The commodification of the world. (Online: September 27 (§4.a). Completed on December 15, 2020)
A descent into the abyss
According to the IMF’s early forecasts, U.S. GDP will contract by 6 percent in the first quarter and by about 30% over the next two quarters. For the year 2020, a “negative growth” of 10% is expected for the United States and of 18% for the euro zone. Since these figures are given by the Washington IMF (an instrument of U.S. capital), it is possible that they will have to be reversed. No forecasting institute dares to predict the shape of the economic curve: it will follow neither the V-shaped curve (a fall followed by a rebound) nor the U-shaped curve (a prolonged ebb prior to a rebound) nor the L-shaped curve (a straight fall followed by a long stagnation). It could even be I-shaped, equivalent to the vertical fall of a stone. (1)
The figures announced for additional job losses worldwide – which are largely underestimated – are 40 million for 2020. Let us recall that in 1932, in the midst of the crisis of 1929, there were 40 million registered industrial unemployed, including 13 million in the USA (25% of the active population). While Goldman-Sachs cautiously gives a figure of 15% unemployment on the horizon of the “American Dream”, (2) the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis gives a much gloomier picture; it fears a loss of 47 million jobs in Donald Trump’s America, which would result in an unemployment rate of 32%, a rate close to that of Weimar Germany in 1932.
The victims of unemployment will therefore be infinitely greater than those of the corona-virus. Often deprived of health care, the unemployed are the first victims: “There is an excess mortality rate among job seekers, with 10,000 to 14,000 deaths each year attributable to unemployment.” (3) The corona-virus epidemic, which is circumstantial and not permanent, will have led – at the end of April – in a middle power like France, to the death of more than 25,000 people. The toll will be much worse for the unemployed, the homeless, the precarious, all those whom the system does not count and ruthlessly rejects if they lose their jobs. In the US, they will lose their medical coverage. If they are new homeowners and find themselves unable to repay their loans, the capital throws them out into the streets, as has already happened after 2008.
The year 2020 will not end without a sharp deterioration of the food situation, even in developed countries. The British newspaper ‘The Independent’ estimates that 1.7 million people are currently unable to buy enough food, while 2.2 million Britons would be unable to pay their rent. In the USA, the victims of the crisis are threatened with water shortages. With the massive layoffs caused by the closure of businesses, many households find themselves unable to pay their bills and are deprived of access to running water. Faced with this dramatic situation, reminiscent of the worst moments of the Great Depression, only 13 states have instituted a moratorium on bill payments .
In poorer countries, it is worse. Confinement translates – as in Ecuador, in Guayaquil, where the poorest receive no help – into a policy of starvation, imposed by the forces of state disorder: “The police intervened with batons, chasing people, hitting, entering houses. But how can one tell a poor person to stay at home when he has no food?” (4) And the phenomenon has spread from the shanty-towns of South Africa to those of Brazil and India, where the health catastrophe has only just begun. In the Philippines, some 23 million people, nearly a quarter of the population, are threatened with starvation under the “no work, no pay” rule, denounces a trade union leader. (5) Confinement inexorably plunges hundreds of millions of human beings into sub-misery.
For workers in the poorest countries, it will be an apocalypse in real time, according to an ILO study. For this organization, no less than 1.6 billion people will lose their livelihoods because of the containment and the historic recession that this measure causes. (6)
The Welfare State, if it ever existed, will be a memory in the death struggle of the major capitalisms to avoid losing their former positions in the world market. And in the face of an explosion of unemployment, affecting the poorest and the least poor, the bourgeoisie in each country will be reluctant to grant unemployment benefits, when they exist, and even more so aid to refugees driven out by wars or the effects of global warming. It will be the return of good old bourgeois Malthusianism, where all “useless mouths” must be eliminated from the “feast”, in a nature that has become totally capitalist:
“A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents on whom he has a just demand, and if the society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone, and will quickly execute her own orders, if he does not work upon the compassion of some of her guests.” (7)
For all those who dare to claim their rightful place, which should be first, while they are the creators of ALL the wealth of society, manual workers and intellectuals, the response of capitalist Mother “Nature” will always be the same: force, the dictatorship of money based on the systematic use of blind violence, guaranteed by the reinforced armoring of the state.
In the poorest countries, the dictatorship of confinement – without the slightest protection for these new prisoners, whose release authorization is equivalent to a new form of electronic bracelet – marks the triumph of police (8) and/or military absolutism: the Chief Minister of the State of Telangana (Deccan, Hyderabad) has dotted the i’s and crossed the t’s: “The administration cannot arrest everyone and I will have to call the army or give the order to shoot on sight. Please stay home.” (9) The same killer speech by the psychopathic Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on April 2, who ordered the military and police to massacre “troublemakers” as they already do with drug dealers: “Understood? Killed. I’m going to bury you.” (10)
This prison confinement is equivalent to a descent into hell, well below the poverty line. In these countries where the informal economy dominates, we can see the effects: famines, interruption of vital exchanges, and the explosion of old or new pandemics, all the more so as the health system, already structurally weak, will continue to plummet. Such a situation can only favor an endemic social decomposition, resulting in repeated civil wars dominated by all sorts of bandits or “warlords”, whose ideological cover (religious or not) cannot conceal a systematic policy of looting and murder, and a devouring thirst for power (bourgeois of course).
In the USA, where the myth of the cowboy who shoots faster than his shadow dominates, two million guns have been sold in March 2020. Trump has even placed individual gun dealers on the list of essential business enterprises. Purchases of rifles, revolvers and machine pistols have doubled since the beginning of the crisis, the premises of endless violence. This “economic rebound” can only increase the death toll of health management.
And in the end, we will witness pandemics of warlike, local, continental and even generalized violence. The arms race, in which the USA always starts as the winner, has never been so intense in the last ten years: military spending have increased by 4% in 2019, the highest increase in the past decade. (11) The confinement of workers in the military industry is inconceivable for all imperialist powers. In France, where a few factories had been closed without prior notice, Defense Minister Florence Parly recalled that “the activity of defense companies must continue” at all costs. (12)
While it is inevitable that the ongoing conflicts in different parts of the world (Libya, Syria, Turkey, Yemen, Afghanistan, Kashmir, Mindanao (Philippines), Somalia, Sahel…) will continue, the UN Secretary, António Guterres, launched a vibrant appeal to put an end to the many armed conflicts around the world, in the name of the struggle against a “common enemy: the Covid-19”. Such an appeal, based on an online petition that aims to gather millions of signatures, is a decoy for a reality that is explosive: millions of war refugees, parked in makeshift camps, living in the worst sanitary and food conditions, and susceptible to become the ideal prey of all present and future pandemics.
Such speeches recall the political bankruptcy of the League of Nations, the forerunner of the UN, which always appealed to peaceful goodwill and proclaimed the outlawing of war, during the Briand-Kellogg Pact signed on August 27, 1928, in a salon on the Quai d’Orsay, a few months before the Great Depression that would lead to the Second World War.
All these fine speeches from the tribune, all these beautiful online petitions are nothing but wind. The cruel reality is there: wars to which are added various repressions have caused more than 200,000 deaths in 2019.
The capitalists and their political staff will never close the store of war – whether external or internal to a country – in order to submit to a “world truce”, because of pandemic X or Y. It is an absolute evidence that only ideologues at the behest of the system or naive pacifists deny with the last ounce of energy.
Pandemic or not, the great capitalist powers continue their arms race and their domination of the oceans. In this month of April 2020, China’s second aircraft carrier entered Taiwan’s waters. Capitalist China will have 6 in 2030. This is far from being equal to the 11 U.S. aircraft carriers (plus the other two under construction).
Criminal reformist illusions about the possibility of “curbing capitalism”.
In the face of a catastrophic ecological situation, in the face of crashes of all kinds, of the galloping dehumanization of a society based on profit alone, some intellectuals preach without ever sowing the seeds for a return to the good old social-democratic solutions of compromise and consensus between classes, based on law and multilateralism. In short, it is a matter of leaving it up to the Caesars who dominate the world, in the absence of God, by making them adhere to new commandments or categorical imperatives: “You will save the planet that you exploit in the sole interest of your capital”, “You will humanize the society that you rule with an iron fist through the grace of your army and your police.”
One can read, for example, in a book published by French academic Michel Beaud, professor emeritus, that it is incongruous to “break with capitalism”. On the contrary, it is a question of :
“Stemming capitalism, notably by undertaking long-term legislative work to reduce (sic), and if possible stop (resic), human and environmental devastation; opening up new avenues by supporting, strengthening and multiplying ecological and social actions aimed at keeping our planet alive (sic) and making our societies more humane (resic).” (13)
Frédérique Audouin-Rouzeau, Fred Vargas in her thriller author’s clothing, delivered a study to the general public (2009) based on the best scientific sources, sounding the alarm on “humanity in peril”, centered on the destruction of nature and the entire ecosystem. Unfortunately, the author advocates not a radical social revolution at the global level, led by those who create wealth, but a kind of “third revolution”, populist (“We the people”), ecological certainly, but electoral (“vote well”) and Thorézian (14) (“Roll up your sleeves”), totally ubuesque in times of pandemics and the collapse of the capitalist system:
“Let’s roll up our sleeves and work, let’s act, let’s remain vigilant and vote, and vote well for conscious, active, sincere leaders. And let’s be hundreds of millions to do it, quickly, very quickly, which will lead to hundreds more in a row. That is what the Third Revolution is all about. We will succeed.” (15)
There is nothing to respond to this Himalayan electoral nonsense, which leaves us speechless (literally and figuratively). The paths of the counterrevolutions of the past (fascism, Nazism, dictatorships of caudillos of the two worlds), which still proclaim themselves “third revolution”, that of the “people” above the classes, are paved with the bones of these champions of petitions, of peaceful marches against the system, of political lobbying, of calls to boycott “fascist products”, of the electoral cuisine of the past with a radical-socialist sauce.
To overthrow a world capital system, relying on powerful capitalist classes and middle classes that have gorged themselves with substantial crumbs (200 million in China!), it will take much more than good will (electoral or otherwise).
At present, the confinement at home is far from total. It can only be partial for sectors deemed strategic by capital (manufacturing of weapons, ships, submarine turbines, etc.; food, transportation, public construction).
Once the hour of “de-confinement” has come, that of the exit from the deleterious antiviral cocoon, all workers, women and men, will find themselves faced with the merciless reality. The danger that most threatens them will not be this or that virus, but capital itself. Having shown its total incapacity to anticipate the crisis, and therefore to manage it, the system will make those without whom it cannot reap its profits foot the bill: the proletarians. Exponential unemployment, reduction of the real wage, lowering of all the burdens on capital, higher taxes, shortages, reinforced militarization of society, such will be the return to “normality” in the worst possible capitalist world.
After having trumpeted everywhere in its little trumpets: “We are on the march” towards more ‘progress’ (= less burdens, more “crazy money” for the richest), the capitalist class can hammer: “We are at war.” Yes, it is indeed a war against all those who will rebel, challenge the existing economic and social order, first of all against all those who live from their work in the midst of sweat and tears and no longer want to suffer the fear of tomorrow.
The ball is now in the proletariat’s court. It is up to the latter to take up the glove that the capitalist class has impudently thrown in its face!
Will the year 2020 be the year of the second (and ultimate) Great Depression of capitalism, after that of 1929, heralding an ‘October 1917’ at the world level?
Philippe Bourrinet, April 18, 2020 (revision: May 1, 2020)
Source: Pantopolis, June 27, 2020, Capitalisme, guerres, pandémie :La crise mortelle de 2020 ? (Conclusion)
Translation and annotation supplements by H.C., September 2020.
First published in: ‘A Free Retriever’s Digest’ Vol.4 #4 (October – December 2020)
1 Cf. Stephen Bouquin, April 5, 2020: «Une tempête parfaite. Covid-19 et crise du capitalisme» [“A perfect storm. Covid-19 and capitalist crisis”]; ‘Révolution permanente’, website of trotskyists within the NPA. Augmented article version.
2 Jérôme Marin in ‘La Tribune’, April 2, 2020: [“6.6 million additional jobless in the USA within a week, a new record”]. The unemployment rate before February 2020 was 3.5%, against the present 15%.
3 Laurent Joffrin in ‘Libération’, April 8, 2020: «Le virus de Charybde et Scylla» [“The virus of Charybdis and Scylla”].
4 «À Nigeria, quartier de Guayaquil, la faim effraie plus que le virus», ‘Le Courrier international’, April 14, 2020. [“In Nigeria, Guayaquil neighborhood, hunger is more frightening than the virus”].
5 Cf. La planète, confinée et en récession, vit un 1er-Mai inédit. (AWP/AFP, May 1, 2020 in ‘Bilan’, a bimonthly magazine from Lausanne (Switzerland).
6 Cf. ILO: As job losses escalate, nearly half of global workforce at risk of losing livelihoods.(Press release of April 29, 2020).
7 Thomas R. Malthus, An Essay on the Principle of Population (1798 1, 1803 2, …1826 6). [This passage appeared only in the second, much enlarged edition, which the author wished to be considered as “a new work”. It was absent from all subsequent editions, following “hostile reactions from many critics”. (Source: Wikipedia)]
8 Laurent Joffrin, ‘Libération’, April 9, 2020: «Questions sur le confinement» [“Questions on confinement”].
10 ‘Le Parisien’, April 2, 2020.
11 AFP telegram in ‘Les Échos’, February 14,2020.
12 ‘Les Échos’, March 31, 2020: «Coronavirus, retour au travail pour les industriels de la défense» [“Coronavirus, those in the defense industry go back to work”].
13 Michel Beaud, Face au pire des mondes (Ed. Seuil, 2011, p. 224) [“In face of the worst of worlds”]. The cover page calls for a “spirit of resistance”, which would be understood by “authentically progressive governments”.
14 Editor’s note: this is referring to Maurice Thorez, leader of the Stalinist PCF, topping the CGT’s “the battle of production” campaign in a public speech he made as a postwar minister to discontented miners in the north of France, a few months after the German capitulation: “Today, the highest from of class duty, of the duty of the French, is to produce. Yesterday, sabotage was our weapon, the armed action against the enemy, today production is the weapon to thwart the plans of the reaction.” (July 21, 1945) See Wikipedia (French).
15 Fred Vargas, L’Humanité en péril. Virons de bord, toute! (Ed. Flammarion, May 2019, p. 223) [“Humanity in peril. Let’s turn about completely!”].
Capitalism, Wars, Pandemics: The mortal crisis of 2020? A pamphlet that situates the corona-virus pandemic (Covid-19) in the destructive history of capitalism.
It has appeared in French with Éditions moto proprio, Paris, May 2020. ISBN: 9-791094-518151. Pdf-edition, 42 p. A4., 4 annotated chapters and a conclusion, with illustrations and supplementary texts.