What is the current situation?
We are already in the middle of the second wave. In Belgium it has already claimed more deaths than the first one and threatens to overwhelm hospitals. In Spain, this week the threshold of 300 daily deaths was breached. As in France, the statistics do not cover deaths due to hospital overwhelming, whose direct cause of death is other ailments and diseases. When counting the excess number of deaths, Spain leads in Covid mortality in Europe.
What did we learn from the first wave and the discontinuation of lockdown?
Most states and health authorities, including Turkey, acknowledge that the main cause of the outbreak of a second wave has been the accelerated and precipitous cessation of lockdown during the first wave. Something that materialized in:
A school reopening which turned children into vectors of inter-family and inter-generational contagion. In Great Britain alone, it is estimated that 50% of the infections between outbreaks took place in schools. It was a completely predictable outcome given the conditions in which it took place. There was no shortage of resistance and strikes around the world. But we should not forget that in all countries, the trade unions fought to shove school reopening down educational workers’ throats, and in countries like Spain, the government and the state came to threaten to take away the parental rights of parents who did not want to participate in the senselessness that was taking place.
Public transportation bringing workers to their workplace. Although the tracking system is designed not to recognize community transmission as long as there is a small chance of the opposite (a family member or friend being infected), transportation networks and workplaces themselves have been the focal points between outbreaks.
Covid strain analysis during this second wave showed that the fastest spreading strain throughout Europe originated among northeastern Spain’s journeymen and laborers. In other words, there is a direct relationship between the conditions of extreme precarization of agricultural workers throughout the European continent and this second wave of pandemic killings.
Why won’t any states learn?
The European bourgeoisies, like those throughout the world, are subordinating their response to the pandemic to their class objectives. Saving lives is a secondary objective compared to saving the economy, that is, keeping the profitability of investments as long as they can and avoiding the bankruptcy of as many applications of capital (businesses) as possible.
But accelerating the end of lockdowns, reopening schools and delaying new lockdowns has ultimately been worse in the bourgeoisie’s own terms…
That’s right. What governments euphemistically called outbreaks were quickly shown to be a disaster for the average profitability of capital. Not to mention the second wave as such. But the ruling class is empiricist, it makes decisions one by one and bases them on a logic of linear cause-and-effect relations. The mechanical conception of the human being and society is not only part of its history, but, under normal conditions, it expresses its interests without major setbacks.
What do the state and the bourgeoisie see? A linear balance between mobility restrictions that could save lives and their economic costs. They even calculate and make provisions in the state budget based on such costs. But these provisions are considered too expensive and they are satisfied with requesting self-discipline and individual responsibility. But the consequences on a contagion curve do not stop at the first iteration or wave, nor are they exclusively health-related.
The final result is determined by a totality of interactions. But their mechanical conception needs to reduce causes and effects to direct relationships. So they reduce the number of elements in the analysis by increasing the error with an increasing number of social interactions. And to this artificial restriction and its corresponding temporal myopia we must add two more elements. First, they will not acknowledge in society that which they are not interested in acknowledging, such as the centrality of work and its organization throughout the social continuum. Secondly, their acute class instincts do not cease to operate, telling them that work is worth little, that it is replaceable and sacrificial. Now, when compared with the damage produced throughout Europe, it seems that it would have been very cheap for them to run more PCRs and provide prefabricated housing for the day laborers. Instead of doing that, they sent the police.
So the overall result always seems to them to be striking and unpredictable, because their approach and conception of reality, starting with the calculations of their experts, has serious difficulties in understanding a complex social reality articulated around classes with contradictory interests.
That is to say, reality is very different to how the dominant class conceives it. And when they are confronted with complex systems having potential adverse outcomes with a capacity to scale exponentially, their way of analyzing and thinking about reality, their ideology, becomes dangerously dysfunctional. Not only for themselves and their interests, but for society as a whole. In reality, it is just another cruel consequence of something we already knew: the entire system has long been anti-historical and anti-human and so its inner logic confronts more and more violently the needs of the whole of Humanity.
But… is there nothing we can do to stop the slaughter?
This contradiction between capitalism and all that it carries with it and the needs of Humanity is materialized and made concrete in the contradiction between the ruling classes and the workers. As the massacre and its trail of pauperization grows, we are seeing how this contradiction manifests itself, all over the world and more and more extensively, in the form of strikes and mobilizations that jump – because they need to – over the framing of the state’s institutions. And that begins with the trade unions.
In Great Britain, a wildcat strike is now beginning, that is, organized from the bottom up against the unions, in order to impose the shutting down of classrooms. In France the wave of strikes in high schools due to the lack of really useful measures to control the pandemic in the classrooms has forced the government to partially retreat and accept remote education in high school. The strike will be continued from Monday until elementary and middle school classes are held in small groups or remotely. This is the way forward.
What about the vaccine?
The EU and Spain bet on the vaccines of the big laboratories because these are, in themselves, big applications for a European capital that is running out of profitable applications. These, in turn, have taken advantage of the special treatment provided by governments for vaccine research to try to give a push to research into new patentable methodologies based on viral vectors instead of using conventional methods. According to WHO, 10 of the 35 candidates that have reached human trials are DNA or RNA vaccines. Confident that the scale of short-term sales, guaranteed by the macro-contracts with the states, would make them profitable in record time, they have taken greater risks of failure. From the point of view of return on investment and the capacity to attract capital, it was the recommended approach, 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.
And the rest? The main traditional vaccine is a Chinese one. It seems to be the most reliable and safe of all vaccines developed so far and the fact that countries like those in the Gulf, which do not need to rescue the pharmaceutical sector as part of their capital strategy, have opted for it, provides some confidence. The problem is that this is not just a matter of developing a vaccine, but of producing it. And producing it means mobilizing resources. So it is highly unlikely that the EU will give priority to vaccinating as soon as possible with a safe but traditional vaccine, as opposed to waiting a little longer to do so with a vaccine that would give European capitals competitive opportunities in the future.
In other words, the vaccine will save lives in some period of time that nobody knows yet. But hundreds of people are dying every day in every country. And there is only one way to stop it: fighting to impose conditions to stop the slaughter.