4. The destruction of health systems and of the ecosystem. The commodification of the world (Completed)
The outbreak of a violent pandemic, like Covid-19, has seemed to suddenly fall from the sky, like an umpteenth plague of Egypt. The U.S. economy seemed to be thriving, and unemployment was at a low ebb. Virtually everyone (except the homeless or the countless precarious workers) was going from home to work every day, hoping that everything would go well in the best possible of all capitalist worlds.
a) New pandemics taking advantage of a capitalist health system adrift (page 2)
b) The agriculture of death: Toxic nutrition, health scourges of “obese capital” (page 3)
c) Commodification, the permanent war of capital against nature (page 4)
Newly added sections: b) and c)
Last updated: December 16, 2020.
The second part of this contribution opens with a historical sketch of wars and epidemics from capitalism’s early expansion since the turn of the 16th Century: the discovery of the “West Indies” and the ensuing conquest of the Americas by Europe’s incipient colonialism, as well as its expansion to Africa and the “East Indies”, until the era of modern imperialism, since the First World War. It focuses on the ‘natural’ spread of lethal diseases and epidemics as a consequence of the interaction of hitherto physically separated populations across continents, under the conditions of a merciless exploitation of slave and forced labor.
It continues by developing on biological warfare that only became systematically developed in the context of modern imperialism by all major rivaling powers, alongside chemical and – after WW-2 – in addition to nuclear warfare. Military-scientific programs for ‘weaponizing’ a diversity of biological agents (bacteria and viruses, like for instance anthrax, botulinum, plague or Ebola) and the yet limited attempts at “testing” and “applying” them in war conflicts are briefly reviewed, including the telling example of the Aun sect in Japan (formally a non-state actor).
This part concludes with some theses for discussion, and a brief rejection of the speculation that the present Covid-19 pandemic would have originated from Chinese military laboratory experiments.
Some findings on the present
state of emergency
“This May 1st, 2020 is like no other. Today, no gathering in our cities to celebrate, as we have done for so many years, International Workers’ Day (…). And yet, the spirit of May Day, this spirit of solidarity among workers, has perhaps never been so powerful, so alive. For it is indeed thanks to the work, celebrated on this day, that the Nation holds.”
“Deprived of the rituals (sic) of this day, we feel today all the value, all the meaning. With this strong will: to rediscover as soon as possible the cheerful, sometimes quarrelsome, first of May Days, which makes our Nation. My dear compatriots, we will find them again, these cheerful first of May Days!” (i) [Little red book of President M. .., to be published?] (ii)
i Tweets section, La Croix, May 1st, 2020.
ii With a little imagination, one can easily give meaning to this mysterious M… The reading of “La P… respectueuse” (The Respectful Prostitute) by Jean-Paul Sartre can be a clue. This play is very contemporary since it is about a dominant class which acts in the name of the “common good” and finds a majority only concerned about its survival, without questioning the acts that are imposed on it.
What is behind the calls for national unity against the Corona-virus pandemic?
As the Corona-virus pandemic rapidly extends its devastating effects over the globe, government leaders have successively declared themselves “at war”, and impose “sanitary emergency measures” at different grades of “lock down”, varying from restricting social life and imposing self-isolation (as in Britain, Germany and the Netherlands) up to establishing veritable military curfews (as in Italy, Spain and France). They all call upon “national unity and solidarity” to combat the “invisible enemy”, while trying to enforce state control over the population, as a new global recession is unfolding.
The following contribution develops on the relation between the wars and epidemics of capitalism, drawing some parallels with the plagues in the early stages of its emergence (the 14th Century) and with the Spanish flu during World War 1. It situates the stakes of the present “Corona-virus crisis” in an ideological preparation for a global war.
Some necessary criticisms apropos of “Social Contagion – Microbiological Class War in China” (Chuǎng)
At the end of February, the Chuǎng collective published an elaborate article on the Corona-virus pandemic in China, Social Contagion. Microbiological Class War in China, that develops their reflections on its origins and societal significance along two axes: 1. “how capitalist production relates to the non-human world at a more fundamental level—how, in short, the “natural world,” including its microbiological substrata, cannot be understood without reference to how society organizes production”; “how capitalist accumulation produces such plagues” and 2. on the present state of Chinese society; on how the pandemic itself is “a contradictory instance of political crisis, making visible to people the unseen potentials and dependencies of the world around them, while also offering yet another excuse for the extension of systems of control even further into everyday life.”
Being one of the first publications that invite its readers to delve deeper into the structural and societal questions posed by a rapidly expanding, overwhelming virus pandemic, it has found a widespread interest in certain political milieus, as is shown by the variety of languages in which it has been translated, from Spanish to Russian.
The following statement by the French blog Pantopolis criticizes the group’s conception of the class character of Chinese society and its main contradictions, for showing a remarkable attachment to the state capitalist visions of Maoism. One that we can find in their “Conversations with Lao Xie” (A State Adequate to the Task” in Chuǎng issue no. 2, 2019) as well.
A statement by ‘Arbeidersstemmen’ (March 15, 2020)
The sudden succession of emergency measures taken by all governments in the Western hemisphere, presumably to counter or “control” the spread of the Corona-virus pandemic, as the stock-markets repeatedly crash, a recession of the world economy is underway and public life is increasingly disrupted, pose many questions.
In a first statement the ‘Arbeidersstemmen’ blog tries to take up the most urgent of them, relates the first manifestations of workers’ reactions to the state of emergency in crisis- and virus-ridden Italy, and puts forward some points of reflection to encourage workers of engaging in a collective struggle.