The Coronavirus and the Necessity of a Communist Vision
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus (or COVID-19) has made vivid the need for a society that puts people above private property. Never has the necessity of a cooperative society been more apparent than it is in the light of this pandemic and the fascist response that is accompanying it. With a communist vision, we can not only ensure that a ruling class can never again exploit working people’s pain for its own gain. We can also effectively manage such dangers to our health before they spread out of control.
We now know COVID-19 began spreading in the United States in mid-January, about the same time the World Health Organization made available a diagnostic test to track the disease. Instead of using it, the U.S. government cobbled together privatized partnerships and rolled out a flawed test in early February, only declaring a national emergency a month later. Meanwhile, those on the front lines of the struggle — healthcare workers, civil servants, truck drivers, and grocery store employees — worked with inadequate supplies to protect their health. Americans died by the thousands due to the refusal of the federal government to mass-test, track and contain the virus and to provide simple but vital things like masks and gowns. In the face of this disaster, governors began to call for nationalization of some industries so that healthcare workers could have the equipment they needed, and patients would have the nearly million ventilators projected to be necessary before this crisis is over.
The minimal use of the Defense Production Act to nationalize industries during this crisis finally led to mass production of N95 masks by 3M, which the company has been selling to the highest bidders, profiting at the expense of American taxpayers. By March 27, pressure on the Federal government led to GM and an array of other manufacturers producing ventilators, but there was still confusion over plans. The situation ensures that these companies will also profit off of taxpayer dollars. Meanwhile, numerous governors have complained that they are competing with one another for protective gear on top of competing with international markets.
While our ruling class pushes for billions of dollars of the workers’ taxes to fund such profiteering and to protect a stock market in freefall, millions more Americans are finding themselves forced out of work, isolated and scared. Some will be permanently thrown out of the system. When people in high places were told what was coming, they moved to protect their financial interests instead of the people. Some, knowing what was coming, even dumped stock before the crisis fully bloomed.
Various versions of the rescue bill kept being exposed and tweaked for their obvious self-serving interests. Still, the outcome is guaranteed to be that billions of each inevitable trillion-dollar package will go to the rich. At the same time, we only see inadequate funds and supplies to everyday people. Meanwhile, the ruling class lays the groundwork for a new fascist ideology, with radio pundits and politicians suggesting that the elderly would rather sacrifice their own lives than harm the capitalist economy.
Impulses to Help One Another
Despite such horrors, the pandemic has accelerated the human impulse toward cooperation for the sake of one another’s survival. All over the country, with uneven state and local measures to contain the virus, people are not only following general health protocols but taking action. They are organizing food distributions, fundraising for those in need, calling for eviction moratoriums and rent strikes, finding ways to provide clean water to those who have no access, and helping the homeless take over abandoned housing. Just as humanity did for hundreds of thousands of years before the accumulation of private property, today’s working-class people are searching for ways to offer what we have to provide for others’ needs.
Using our resources to provide for each other’s needs is the fundamental concept of communism. When the many ways we produce the things that allow us to survive become public instead of private property, all community, and individual needs can be met. In communism’s early forms, people banded together to survive a world of scarce resources. Today, we live in a world where digital technologies can produce virtually anything we need, with less and less human activity. This new reality has created a decades-long and deepening worldwide crisis for capitalism because that system depends on workers earning money to buy its goods.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerates the crisis and the class struggle. Those who were fighting poverty, surviving without adequate healthcare or housing before the pandemic are clearly on the front lines of this struggle. They are being joined by more and more Americans every day. Over the last two weeks of March, 3.3 million Americans filing for unemployment doubled to a record 6.6 million.
Nationalization for Profit
The U.S. ruling class is calling for the nationalization of industries to protect profitability. The world scientific community is aware of the inevitability of increasing pandemics and a growing climate catastrophe. No reasonable person who is not merely looking to maintain power can help but recognize the inadequacy of the world economic system.
While all Americans are beginning to see the need for the nationalization of production and distribution to resolve our current crisis, revolutionaries must keep in mind that the horrific response to this crisis is simply the latest symptom of the deepening crises of a system that can no longer provide for its people. In 2008 banks were bailed out, healthcare reform propped up insurance companies, and alliances like the one with the Nestlé corporation (among others) sold off Great Lakes waters for pennies to private interests, while allowing the Flint River to remain poisoned. We have seen time and time again the inhumanity of government when it works for corporations. Under capitalism, nationalization is a tool to provide stability for the ruling classes.
As revolutionaries, we need to understand nationalization as an important battleground, a national dialogue over whose interests our government will serve. The human cost of COVID-19 vividly illustrates the necessity for a new communist economic system. The objective truth is that we could, right now, harness all of our resources to tackle the pandemic. We could ensure that no one has to go without sufficient food, shelter, clothing, and whatever other tools individuals might need to get through such a crisis. Imagine being out of work without fear for our own safety or the safety of our families! That is the communist vision.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, over forty million Americans were food insecure, and half a million were homeless on any given night. Despite dedicated efforts by small groups throughout the country, this situation will only grow worse, because the people have no control over systems of mass production that could resolve these problems. In fact, as part of a move toward indoctrinating us with fascist ideology, we have seen people arrested for feeding the hungry, to help the mass incarcerated in prison, and trying to keep immigrant families from being torn apart. These are the same groups the ruling class has tried to stop from defending those who are most at risk in the COVID-19 pandemic. With every new crisis, the ruling class crusade for an ideology that puts the economy above human life only intensifies as American (and worldwide) corporate owners fight to maintain their wealth and control over the system.
This fascist ideology is an objective need of a ruling class which can only maintain its control of the people by convincing us that we should entrust human life to the interests of private property. From the moment the COVID-19 crisis broke, the federal government put private interests in charge of testing, production, and distribution of needed supplies, and calling the shots for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. military. Former small government conservatives now call for a strengthened federal government to preserve private interests against social unrest, and these plans line up with a whole series of military contingency plans. The advertising industry assists the U.S. government and other world powers in global surveillance of cellphone users.
COVID-19 accelerates this movement for fascism at the same time as it accelerates growing social consciousness about our class interests. If the corporations win, millions will not only die with this pandemic but as a result of continued environmental degradation and a series of projected pandemics that will accelerate as the competition between capitalists for control of the world intensifies.
The communist vision says this does not have to be. By removing the profit motive from the driver’s seat of the system, we can effectively take care of each other every day. We can minimize this pandemic and marshal our resources to deal with looming crises like superbugs and the profit-driven threat of climate change. At this point in our history, the practical solution of “to each according to their need” is much more than a good idea; it is absolutely necessary to our hopes and dreams for all we love. RC
May/June 2020. vol.30. Ed3
This article originated in Rally, Comrades!
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011