Profit and competition are jeopardizing the fight against the pandemic

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
February 15, 2021

Weeks go by and the prospect of having the entire population vaccinated, or even just those who are most at risk, is fading away. In a month and a half, only a little more than two million people have received at least their first dose. At that rate, it would take two years to vaccinate just half of the country’s population!

But it’s just as worrying to see what’s happening in the rest of the world. Three-quarters of the available vaccine doses have been distributed to only ten countries, the richest in the world. The poorest countries aren’t only behind on vaccinations, in most cases they aren’t able to access the vaccines because of their outrageously high prices. In Africa, the vast majority of countries haven’t started vaccinating at all.

As always in this society, the richest are the first to be served. It’s true in a country like France where the wealthiest are able to get their appointment for the shot more easily. But it’s especially true when you consider the imbalance between rich and poor countries. It’s revolting and unacceptable.

But it’s not just a question of ethics and international solidarity. It’s a question of efficiency because we’ll only be able to overcome this pandemic on a worldwide scale, that of all humanity. The battle against the virus can’t be won as long as even just one uncontrolled outbreak remains somewhere in the world. Look at what’s happening in Brazil and South Africa where variants have emerged and are now threatening the global vaccination campaign.

Isolating a country, blocking it off from the rest of the planet is an illusion in our world of constant motion and interactions. Leaving poor countries to fend for themselves is despicable and absurd. And the same goes for vaccine nationalism!

The trade war between capitalists and the rivalries between countries have led to contempt for vaccines discovered in countries like China, Russia or Cuba which have been scorned and ignored. They push each country to seek its own vaccine in order to promote its own national victory. And now, trade war and international rivalry are pushing countries to compete with one another to get their orders in and get served first. It’s plain stupidity! This vaccine nationalism is impeding the fight against the pandemic. It can only turn against us!

“Without fast, effective international solidarity and action, we run the risk of having the virus escape from our control,” Macron stated recently. Even a liberal like him is forced to acknowledge that in the fight against the pandemic, it would be better for nations to cooperate than to compete. Planning in a rational way would be better than submitting to the laws of the market.

To fight the virus effectively, we must share our knowledge, including with Chinese, Russian and Cuban scientists. We must get rid of trade secrets and laboratories’ sacrosanct intellectual property. We must make them share their discoveries and produce vaccines in all labs and factories capable of doing so. Producing vaccines must be a common endeavor and not a means to make profit. In short, we must get rid of competition and private property.

When Macron said that the vaccine should be a “common good”, he was stating an objective necessity. But neither he nor any other politician striving to get into power are capable of making that happen. That would require requisitions and expropriations. It would be a declaration of war on capitalists. We can’t expect that from politicians devoted body and soul to the bourgeoisie and its system.

The world’s leaders can’t even get pharmaceutical companies to give up part of their profits so that poor countries can have access to the vaccines. They refuse to engage in any arm-wrestling with the laboratories even though it would be beneficial for society on the whole and for the capitalists themselves. This crisis reveals the true nature of political leaders who claim to govern: they are servants ready to accept anything! Doormats!

Vaccinating billions of people over several years is a godsend for Big Pharma shareholders. They can negotiate and they may give up part of their profits but they will never tolerate any interference with industrial and commercial trade secrets, their private property or their power. To defend their interests as rich parasites, the capitalists are sabotaging the fight against the pandemic and jeopardizing the future of society. They prove that all those who stand up against the capitalists and aim to overthrow capitalism are right to do so!