2020s >> 2021 >> no-1408-december-2021

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Capitalism is the disease

George Orwell, c.1940

Socialists have long argued that war, poverty and much pestilence are caused by capitalism. ‘It has led to the deaths of millions of people, sickened hundreds of millions and dramatically changed the lives of almost every person on the planet’ (dailymail.co.uk, 30 October). Indeed, but Matt Ridley’s article concerns the origin of Covid-19 rather than the urgent need to establish a post-capitalist world. More than a year after the latest pandemic began, PETA Asia investigators visited live-animal markets in China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Laos, and Sri Lanka. Everything is for sale, dead or alive: bats, monkeys, civet cats, and other animals are sold as food or to be used in traditional medicine, in entertainment, or in other ways. ‘Carcasses were displayed on blood-streaked countertops, and both live animals and raw flesh were handled without gloves. These markets are cesspools of filth… Most scientists are convinced that the coronavirus originated in a live-animal market in China, where animals of a wide range of species are sold alongside dead animals and produce’ (PETAUK, 13 April). Ridley provides a note of caution: ‘…despite testing markets, farms and no fewer than 80,000 animal samples spanning dozens of species across China, no evidence has emerged for a similar chain of early ‘zoonotic’ infections — transmitted from animals to humans — in SARS-CoV-2. Hundreds of samples taken from animal carcasses at the market have all tested negative for any trace of the virus’, and he concludes ‘we can but hope the truth will — one day — come out.’ Nearly 5 million deaths due to Covid-19 have been confirmed worldwide. Given that the knowledge and resources exist to reduce the number of epidemics and minimise the possibility of them becoming pandemics, the vast majority of these deaths can be considered premature. The author of Animal Farm, George Orwell, commenting on the genesis of this work, stated: ‘I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat.’ This is the truth workers across the world should focus on.

Charity begins at work

The dreadful scenes at Kabul airport in early August would not have looked out of place in the horror film World War Z. Now, months after then-President Ashraf Ghani fled, there is a war between the zombies of the Taliban and the zombies of Islamic State. Whoever wins, we lose. ‘Afghanistan’s Taliban government is pressing for the release of billions of dollars of central bank reserves as the drought-stricken nation faces a cash crunch, mass starvation and a new migration crisis’ (reuters.com, 29 October). Every 17 hours a billionaire is created, and every 17 hours 17,000 people die from hunger. World Food Programme executive director David Beasley is calling upon US billionaires to give just 0.36 percent of the increase in their collective wealth since the start of the pandemic to help prevent 42 million people from starving to death. The capitalist class is ‘…charitable out of self-interest; it gives nothing outright, but regards its gifts as a business matter, and makes a deal with the poor saying: “If I spend this much upon benevolent institutions, I thereby purchase the right not to be troubled any further, and you are bound thereby to stay in your dusky holes and not to irritate my tender nerves by exposing your misery. You shall despair as before, but you shall despair unseen, this I require, this I purchase with my subscription of twenty pounds for the infirmary! ”’ (Engels, The Condition of the Working Class in England, 1844). Such chutzpah – the capitalists exploit us and then place themselves before the world as mighty benefactors of humanity when they give back a mere fraction of the wealth generated by our class.

Only zombies need leaders

‘Mr Lobanov says the KPRF [Communist Party of the Russian Federation] has been trapped by Kremlin design into a predetermined place within the existing system and, unless it moves more decisively into the streets to stage more convincing forms of peaceful resistance – as happened when millions of Russians protested against election fraud a decade ago – it will lose relevance with Russian voters. In fact, within the KPRF some members have lamented a too-passive reaction by leader Gennady Zyuganov to the results, and are pushing against their leaders’ “business as usual” relations with authorities’ (ca.news.yahoo.com, 26 October). Zyuganov, KPRF leader since 1993, said in a radio interview with the Komsomolskaya Pravda tabloid, that ‘the main slogan of communism – “He who does not work shall not eat” – is written in the Apostle Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians found in the New Testament. “We need to study the Bible,” Zyuganov concluded’ (Moscow Times, 2 September). ‘He who does not work shall not eat.’ Compare this biblically-inspired Leninist distortion with the real thing: ‘From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs’ (Karl Marx, Critique of the Gotha programme, 1875). Also, the vanguardist Lenin again: ‘If socialism can only be realised when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see socialism for at least five hundred years’ (from a speech in November 1918 quoted by John Reed in Ten Days that Shook the World), compared with early socialist Flora Tristan: ‘the emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself’.

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