This article first appeared in The Anvil, Vol 10 No 4, published 31 August 2021.
The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus continues to sweep the world. So far, it has caused over 200 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 4,500,000 deaths. We know that many more of both have gone unrecorded, particularly in the Third World. Rich imperialist countries buy up the vaccines, pricing poorer ones out of the market. A more infectious strain, the Delta variant, has disrupted previous plans for a return to normality. Very few countries have escaped it and even their success may be temporary.
There is a connection. The failure of most governments to fight the coronavirus effectively has led to large pools of infection which are ideal for generating mutations. Selection pressure leads to more contagious strains becoming dominant. This is how the Delta strain emerged and more strains will be born as long as there are so many global infections.
This is a disaster made by capitalism. Imperialism has kept most countries poor. In rich countries, governments reluctant to confront capital have failed to take effective action to stop the virus circulating. Many workers, left without enough economic support, have had to break health regulations. Some have become an audience for reactionaries who peddle unscientific nonsense about the virus, vaccines, masks or any number of quack remedies and crackpot theories. Many of these reactionaries are simply fools, but in amongst them are cynical Fascists, keen to create chaos and a desire for authoritarian solutions.
Intellectual property laws have created an artificial shortage of vaccines and led to poor countries being outbid by rich ones. The vaccination rate in Africa is horrendously low and only 1.6% of people in low income countries have received any doses at all. Capitalism, by preventing an effective effort being made against the virus in the Third World, is thus creating new strains which strike back against rich countries.
As long as the virus exists, it will threaten to wreak a path of death and disability across the globe, wherever vaccination or other strategies fail. The only path to safety is to eliminate it completely. This will require vaccine production to increase by an order of magnitude. New vaccines must be developed – vaccines for children, vaccines giving maximum protection against the Delta strain and future variants, vaccines with fewer side-effects and vaccines which give life-long protection.
To achieve this, the rules of capitalism must be broken. Intellectual property laws restrict vaccine production and also restrict access to the best vaccines, so they must go. A massive research effort is needed to discover vaccines that can eliminate the virus. This requires breaking researchers out of their corporate structures so they can collaborate freely and globally. And finally, we need a co-ordinated plan to eradicate the virus worldwide, combining vaccination with public health measures. This will require shutting down industries and paying workers to stay home. Capital has resisted such measures and will continue to resist them.
How will this program be won? The answer is the same as always. The working class, supported in the Third World by the other popular classes, needs to fight. We need to demand health and safety measures and to refuse unsafe work and we also need to mobilise a social movement. We must render society ungovernable and prevent the accumulation of profits until governments around the world have taken the necessary steps to beat SARS-CoV-2 for good.
And the movement we build while campaigning for this program will embody the values and practices of a new society. A movement based on solidarity and committed to liberty and equality for all. A movement which can make a revolution to overthrow capitalism and establish libertarian communism worldwide. Let’s do it.
WIPE THE VIRUS FROM THE FACE OF THE EARTH