How capitalism is blocking the way to a successful fight against the virus

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
March 1, 2021

The epidemic is spreading again. It’s massively infecting the inhabitants of Nice and Dunkirk who have to deal with curfews and weekend lockdowns. And some twenty French départements are also in the crosshairs.  

Macron is apparently refusing to use the word "lockdown". To try to save face, he’s taking measures locally, city by city, region by region. But what he’s really doing is locking down the country again. And this is a sign of the failure of his policy. 

The government has justified the line followed by explaining that other countries aren’t doing any better. That's true, though it would be more accurate to say that Macron is doing just as badly as the others. 

World leaders have one thing in common: they are all managing the health crisis from the point of view of the bourgeoisie and with the utmost respect for the capitalist framework. Their way of managing the epidemic is not only contrary to the interests of workers, it is also ineffective in terms of fighting the virus. 

People have to put up with all kinds of restrictions on their personal lives. Their horizon is limited by bans and sanctions. They are asked to "go to work at all costs and then stay at home”. This situation puts a minimum of constraints on capitalists and business leaders and causes little disruption because business must go on as usual where there’s money to be made. 

The government has chosen to hunt down the virus during people's free time and to let it spread freely inside workplaces where health protocols are impossible to follow, given the work rhythms and workstation demands. The unsolved problems of a crowded public transit system and understaffed schools are also obvious indications of the government’s failure to stop infections from spreading. 

The most serious consequence of this mess is the policy regarding vaccination. Pharmaceutical companies hold the key to the situation, but they aren't looking to work together to speed up vaccine production or to share patents. Instead, each one wants to sell its own vaccine and cash in on the profits. Millions of vaccine doses have been ordered and paid for, but the companies are in no hurry to invest in their production—just look how slow AstraZeneca has been! 

The present situation demands that scientific knowledge and means of production be pooled together, but competition and private property prohibit this type of collaboration.  It requires cooperation and for tasks to be planned out rationally, but pharmaceutical labs refuse to be transparent and they impose trade secrecy. 

We live in a society that places capitalist property, market laws and the pursuit of profit above all else. Capitalists are incapable of organizing a “general mobilization" of the people--whether against a pandemic or any other problem. They will mobilize only if there’s profit to be made.  

The politicians who support and defend such a social organization can be nothing but powerless. Macron’s government, for example, is putting the blame on the population simply to cover up the failings of its own incoherent policy.  Since the outbreak of the epidemic, the blame has always been put on ordinary people’s behavior and their alleged lack of civic-mindedness.  

This is a well-known trick that is often used by those in power. Problems can always be blamed on the population. The deadly brawls between youth gangs? It's the parents' fault! Mass unemployment? It's the fault of the unemployed! Pollution? Blame it on the consumers... And don’t even think about saying that we live under the rule of capitalism and the law of profit! 

For weeks, the government and the media under its thumb tried to make people believe that the problem was due to the fraction of the population reluctant to get vaccinated. Today, they talk about issuing a “vaccine passport” ... while those who want to be vaccinated can’t be. 

Politicians accuse “the people” to avoid assuming their responsibilities. It’s no surprise then if working people have no trust in such “leaders”! 

The involvement of workers in the fight against the epidemic is an established fact. They are the ones who keep society going in spite of the virus. 

Hospital staff are giving their all in the battle, despite the budget cuts they’ve had to put up with. The same can be said of homecare assistants, state-run retirement home staff and the researchers who discovered the vaccines. Their collective efforts are constantly being undermined by the capitalist organization of society–just like the virus, we must get rid of it!