Yesterday, 177 deaths by covid in the previous 24 hours were reported in Spain, 406 in Argentina, 863 in Brazil. In Peru the killing has found so few obstacles that one third of the surviving population could have antibodies. In France, although hospitals are once again overwhelmed, even Marseille, the main outbreak at present, remains unconfined.
In Spain, the left and right wing governments hold a false debate: should we keep everything open or to keep almost everything open?. It’s not that they aren’t aware of the consequences. The results of failing to truly confine and close non-essential workplaces during the first wave are well known. The new restrictions are late and remain insufficient in the face of the development of the pandemic in places like Navarra or Madrid. At this point, what difference is it going to make to close playgrounds or not serve at the bars?
But they play with fear and try to peddle us with a false balance between the economy and lives. That is, there would be an acceptable number of deaths, an optimal trade-off between contagion and cosmetic restrictions where businesses would lose up to a certain point without suffering too much. It is another form of the same principle that has guided the response to the pandemic since the early stages: They prioritize saving their investments ahead of saving our lives.
Of course, this balance is different for each national capital: the more precarious and relatively small the healthcare system, and the weaker the national capital, the higher the number of necessary victims. Germany could afford to be more rigorous and save more lives than the United States and its underdeveloped healthcare system. Spain, Madrid cannot go back into confinement, as they shamelessly claim in Italy. Brazil is the example, they say in Argentina: industrial output is already at pre-pandemic levels … although, or rather, because, gravediggers cannot keep up with the dead.
Overcoming fear and overcoming the massacre
Critique. Again and again they present as inevitable facts and unexpected surprises something that is neither. Examples?
The first wave was nothing unexpected except perhaps in China, and the second wave was even less so. If vaccines using new technologies are becoming more and more problematic, this was not something unpredictable either:
[The large pharmaceutical consortia,] confident that the scale of short-term sales, guaranteed by the macro-contracts with the states, would make them profitable in record time, have taken greater risks of error. From the point of view of the return on investment and the capacity to attract capital it was the advisable thing, of course. But not from the point of view of universal needs, which would probably have recommended opting for traditional methods with greater chances of success.
“Pandemic, strikes and vaccines“, 14/9/2020
What’s more, the repentant hope in the old inactivated vaccines is part of the same selective and misleading view. If they are late today, it is because they started almost from scratch. And they’ve started almost from scratch because, at the time, funding for the SARS vaccine was stopped when it was near completion. Expectations of profitability and human needs were, of course, moving in different directions. The availability of a SARS vaccine in this pandemic would have dramatically shortened development times for the COVID vaccine.
And if we talk about the drop in production and unemployment, it is even more evident and therefore even more denied and crushed. What forces a company to close down if it cannot sell for a certain time, is the set of rules (social relations) that we call capitalism. The knowledge, the tools and the people who carry out the production, the workers, are still there during and after confinement. Nothing but the fanatical subordination to rules that are clearly dysfunctional and harmful to Humanity, imposes that production cannot be resumed. Let us not be told about rationality: manufacturing poverty in order to keep no matter what an already antisocial set of rules, increasingly incapable of producing human development is the irrational option.
If critique is needed it is because, in the end, when the system opposes and confronts human needs at every step, to the point of presenting a dichotomy between its good functioning and the defense of our lives, the only possible way to live is to live against the system. We are faced with a meat grinder, the suicides, murders and domestic abuses or accidents are all there to remind us. To live every day in the perspective of what is necessary and possible, a society liberated from rules which are destroying it, is the only way to avoid being dragged along, the only way to face a current which turns us into things by throwing us against others and the others against us. That is why morality is so important for us.
But to assert an opposite and alternative morality, if it remains in the individual or even in the community level, is as sterile as letting oneself be dragged down by demoralization. To affirm a morality in opposition to killing is not to dwell in the desert, it is to organize oneself. Because, if critique is not used to promote the expression of universal human needs as a political force, it becomes a mere gesture. We will not finally overcome this unnecessary horror if we remain atomized. Nothing individual makes political sense. The need for regroupment in order to collectively elaborate critique in a way that is socially and historically useful is necessary and urgent. Either that or die drowning in ideological slurry.
But all of the above cannot be fruitful without struggle. What’s more, all of the above -critique, morality, political action- only make sense in order to make the struggles fruitful. The good news: the struggles are there and although they don’t appear on the TV news they grow by the month.
Better news yet: everything that is presented to us as superhuman forces, unbeatable, inexorable… is not. That is to say, they are so only within the acceptable bounds of the system. They are unavoidable… only if we let them develop freely. We have seen it these days. Libya, the most savage and endless war, which all the great powers said they wanted to end while feeding it underneath… stopped at once as soon as workers’ struggles began to germinate on both sides of the front. And if that happens with wars, we know from historical experience that no less happens with crises and layoffs: until struggles are raised as a class instead of as part of the national interest, so that the so-called impossible ceases to be so.