The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Issue no. 1118 — November 23 - December 7, 2020

Elections:
Below the Surface

Nov 23, 2020

In every part of the world other than Donald’s world, Biden won the election.

In Donald’s world, Donald won, and he rushed to declare it even before most of the votes were counted. When vote counts did come in, he raged on Twitter about “fraud” and “corruption.” His lawyer claimed to have found papers showing Trump won with a 70% share of the vote.

Of course, it’s a joke. Even Donald knew he had lost. But after driving five companies into bankruptcy, stiffing his investors while making off with the loot, he knew how to turn a company’s loss into his own personal profit. He also knew that Reality TV could turn a loser into the “mega successful” businessman he had pretended to be. Why not president?

It’s pure Reality TV—and also a financial scam. Trump, being chauffeured off to one of his golf courses, begged his followers to donate money for legal costs to defend his election protest. To note: nothing in the way he made his request prevents him from making off with the money personally, stiffing people who trusted him.

But it’s more than a financial scam. Trump demanded that state legislatures run by Republicans ignore the official vote count and instead select their own slate of electors to cast votes for him in the Electoral College. And a few Republicans jumped to carry out his every wish.

Trump’s demands won’t put him back in the White House. But that’s not because, as so many claimed, that “democracy” worked. The electoral system worked the way it always does, and that has little to do with democracy, whether Trump won or lost.

Need we be reminded? In two of the previous five elections, the candidate who was installed as president lost the popular vote, that is, the actual vote of the population: in 2000, Bush lost by half a million votes; in 2016, Trump lost by more than three million. This year, with over 150 million people voting, a shift of some tens of thousands of votes to Trump in four “swing” states would have been enough to let the Electoral College put the loser once again into the White House.

This is exactly what Trump was playing on—the fact that the Electoral College, shrouded in mystery, can decide the opposite of what the people in their majority decide.

In this “democracy,” there is no direct vote by the people for president. A direct vote is no guarantee of “democracy,” but the lack of such a vote surely means that what the people mark on their ballot is not decisive.

This is not just an oddity, a little known fact for Jeopardy. It is the direct result of the way the electoral system was set up in the beginning, the purpose of which has carried over into today.

The aim of that system—as expressed in the words of John Jay, one of the chief architects of the Constitution—was to guarantee that “the people who own the country ought to govern it.” In other words the wealthy classes ought to rule over everyone else. Jeremy Belknap, one of the architects of the Electoral College, explained its goal this way: “Let it stand as a principle that government originates from the people; but let the people be taught that they are not able to govern themselves.” The letters between James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, the main authors of the Constitution, reiterate over and over and over again that “the proper role of government is to protect against leveling tendencies that might lead to an agrarian law,” that is, a law that would have served the majority of the “free” population in that period, who were agricultural laborers or farmers.

To put it into plain words: the population can vote—so long as it doesn’t vote for something the ruling classes don’t want. So the problem addressed by the makers of the Constitution was how to structure the system avoiding that danger, while seeming to give the people a voice. As Madison expressed it in another of his letters, giving people the right to a meaningless vote was useful for diverting the people’s attention from their own interests, keeping them lined up behind the wealthy classes.

Every important politician since Madison’s day has known how to play on elections for exactly this purpose.

So what is Donald Trump’s purpose now? Certainly he didn’t expect to grab the presidency back. Probably he was hoping to keep part of the “people” lined up behind him. Perhaps he was seeking to make a deal gaining immunity from prosecution. After all, he faces a multitude of criminal charges for past financial crimes, once out of office.

Whatever his purposes, Trump’s maneuvers—and the fact that some parts of the political establishment acted on them—served to pull the curtain back on this sham of democracy.

Pages 2-3

The Pandemic Worsens in Michigan Prisons

Nov 23, 2020

The COVID-19 outbreak in Michigan prisons is growing fast. The number of active cases among prisoners more than tripled in just over two weeks, going from around 1,200 in early November to 4,010 by November 20.

Most recently, the outbreaks have been worst in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and western Lower Peninsula prisons. These prisons, located in more rural areas, were spared from the early stages of the pandemic which hit the urban areas of southeastern Michigan. As a result, officials in the U.P. and western prisons apparently took too few preventive measures like early testing of prison employees, who come and go from outside on a daily basis and were the most likely source of the virus entering the prisons.

Initially, the prisons responded by forcing prisoners to stay in their cells. Some prisoners were reluctant to come forward if they were feeling sick because they were concerned they might lose the few privileges at their disposal. Later, the prisons started forcibly testing prisoners but there were problems with how to house prisoners while it took time to get back test results.

Since March, 11,233 Michigan prisoners have tested positive. In March, the state had 38,000 prisoners and after moving to release some, it now has 34,000. That means almost a third of prisoners have contracted the virus. In addition, almost 1,600 staff members have tested positive. Seventy-seven prisoners and three employees in Michigan have died.

Conditions in which prisoners are kept make it near impossible to stop the spread of this highly infectious disease. One prisoner, Devon Glenn, said it well, “We cannot social distance. I understand I’m in prison ... but I don’t wanna lose my life in here. I wasn’t sentenced to death,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

What is happening in Michigan prisons is not an isolated example, it mirrors what is happening in prisons across the country. As always, conditions in the prisons are a measure of the sickness of this capitalist society, only more so in the midst of this deadly pandemic.

L.A. Sheriff’s Deputy Shoots Down a Patient in a Hospital

Nov 23, 2020

Nicholas Burgos Jr. died on November 1, nearly four weeks after he was shot seven times by a sheriff’s deputy inside Harbor-UCLA hospital, which is part of the countywide public hospital system. At the time of the shooting, the 38-year-old Burgos was being treated in the hospital for mental illness.

The shooting outraged doctors and other hospital workers, who organized a rally on October 13 to protest police violence inside the hospital and also demanded that no guns be allowed inside the hospital, including those carried by police. In fact, this same hospital had gone through another police killing of a patient five years ago.

As usual, the Sheriff’s Department defended the shooting, saying that the deputy acted in self defense, because Burgos pursued her and attacked her with a heavy medical device made of metal. But hospital workers, who witnessed the incident, tell a different story. What Burgos had in his hand was an IV pole because he had an IV needle in his arm, they said, when he encountered the sheriff’s deputy in the hallway. As it got tense between Burgos and the deputy, doctors urged the deputy not to engage and not to shoot; they told her to let the hospital’s trained staff, which was on its way, handle the situation instead. But the deputy shot the patient anyway.

The sheriff’s department quickly moved to cover up the shooting. Even though Burgos was hospitalized in severely critical condition, it did not notify Burgos’s family for a full week after the incident. And L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva showed complete contempt for the victim by claiming that it was “a scene out of ‘The Shining’ with Jack Nicholson,” likening the victim, a mental patient, to a horror movie character.

The L.A. Sheriff’s Department, one of the largest police organizations in the country, has a lot of blood on its hands. The killing of Nick Burgos is the third murder of a working-class man at the hands of Villanueva’s deputies within four months.

Baltimore County:
Eviction Cases Begin

Nov 23, 2020

The federal Center for Disease Control’s moratorium on evictions ends December 31. It allows landlords to file with courts to start the eviction process now.

Westminster Management has been filing for evictions in Baltimore County and adding the court fees to tenants’ overdue accounts. Westminster is no mom‑and‑pop, shoe‑string operation. It manages more than 20,000 apartments and it paid owner Jared Kushner (Donald Trump’s son-in-law) 1.65 million dollars last year.

Corporate landlords filed 10,000 evictions in five states since September, on top of over 80,000 eviction filings earlier during the pandemic.

What system throws tens of thousands of people out into the cold in the middle of a health crisis, just to keep paying high profits to a little class of parasites? A rotten one for sure.

Who Can Trust Chicago Public Schools?

Nov 23, 2020

Chicago’s public schools have been on Remote Learning for all students since mid-March. Nonetheless, CPS staff have been contracting the virus. Olga Quiroga died from Covid, after helping to pass out bag lunches to parents at Funston Elementary.

At least four staff at Nightingale Elementary caught Covid—and one security guard there died. Nightingale was one of nine Elementary Schools serving as a “Learning Hub,” where a few students could go to be able to get online for school with some supervision. 439 COVID cases related to CPS buildings have been reported—more than half of them in November.

Even as the virus is spreading faster than ever in the city, Chicago Mayor Lightfoot and Chicago Public Schools Chief Janice Jackson laid out a tentative timeline for re-opening elementary schools and certain special education programs, without proper protections.

To reassure parents of safety, Janice Jackson has more than once announced in the media that the district procured a HEPA filter for every classroom. But principals, more than once, have told their teachers and staff that those filters were only going to be put into a much smaller number of rooms.

Of course schools need to reopen. But who can trust the CPS administration to do it safely when they continually pull crap like this?

Public Schools Partner with Exploiters

Nov 23, 2020

Heating and air conditioning don’t work in a number of 60‑year‑old public schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland, near Washington, D.C. But instead of hiring more people to do the necessary work, the county council voted in October to contract with private companies.

County politicians propose to pay 30 to 34 million dollars per year for 30 years—a total of over 1.2 billion dollars—to developer and investment company Fengate Capital Management, construction company Gilbane, architectural company Stantec, and employment contractor Honeywell. These companies will build six schools and then maintain them for those years. Corporate subsidies, corporate profit in the driver’s seat.

When this kind of shady arrangement was tried in Canada, it’s no surprise there were so many cost overruns that a number of jurisdictions took back their schools.

The plain fact is, the schools need to hire more workers. How to pay for this? By taxing corporations, not by handing out sweetheart deals.

Detroit vs. Crooked Canvassers

Nov 23, 2020

When Trump’s friends on the Wayne County Board of Canvassers refused to certify Biden’s victory in Michigan, they met with real opposition from Michigan voters attending a virtual public meeting. The canvassers claimed that Wayne County’s votes should not be counted because there were discrepancies of one or two votes in some Detroit precincts that are 80% black. But they agreed to certify the results of the Wayne County suburbs, including Livonia, which is 95% white and had MORE vote discrepancies!

At that point, those people attending this virtual public meeting went off on the Republican canvassers. Person after person blasted them, calling them out for their attempted voter suppression, their lack of integrity and their naked racism. After an hour of this, the Republican challengers abruptly changed course and voted to certify.

Moral of this story? The most effective way to turn back a cowardly attack is to turn out numbers ready to fight.

Illinois State and County Budget Cuts

Nov 23, 2020

The pandemic has meant fewer taxes coming into local governments. But do the politicians propose rolling back the tax breaks and subsidies they hand out to the corporations? Of course not.

Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board President, proposes to lay off 130 workers from the Cook County Health System—in the middle of a pandemic. Cook County is the biggest hospital serving the poor and uninsured.

Illinois Governor Pritzker told state departments to prepare for 5% cuts this year, and 10% for next year. That will mean big cuts to education, roads, and parks.

As always, as in every crisis, the political servants of the ruling class throw the weight of the crisis onto the back of the working class.

Staffing Issues?
Pay and Train Workers!

Nov 23, 2020

Superintendents across Michigan are citing a lack of subs to cover all the teachers who need to quarantine due to COVID. Michigan has faced a shortage of substitute teachers for years, and the abysmally minimal pay increases aren’t cutting it. Substitute teaching was difficult work before the pandemic, and now subs face COVID exposure and new online learning platforms to navigate. Yet substitute teachers in Michigan earn between $10‑15 per hour.

The solution is obvious. Pay all educational staff a thriving wage, offer free training and education, and equip the schools with resources and PPE needed for safe learning. When jobs pay well and provide decent working conditions, employees stick around!

Pages 4-5

Climate Change Batters Countries Looted by U.S. Imperialism

Nov 23, 2020

On October 31, Typhoon Goni made landfall in the Philippines with the strongest winds of any recorded tropical cyclone in history—195 miles per hour, sustained for a minute. The storm ripped the roofs off of evacuation shelters and damaged the electric power grid, homes, and crops.

Less than two weeks later, on November 12, Typhoon Vamco brought extremely heavy rains back to the Philippines. Water overflowed a major dam, causing the Cagayan River to overflow, sweeping away whole villages, leaving thousands homeless and killing about 100 people so far.

Halfway around the world in Central America, in early November, Hurricane Eta left hundreds of thousands of people without shelter. Less than two weeks later, Hurricane Iota made landfall on November 17. Iota was the strongest storm ever to hit Nicaragua, according to that country’s government. It was the thirtieth named storm of this season—the most named storms ever. Now impoverished people in Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador are suffering through another round of misery as already-swollen rivers sweep away even more homes and belongings.

While none of these individual storms can be definitively attributed to climate change, the increasing intensity of major storms can be. Hurricanes and typhoons (the name for hurricanes in the Pacific Ocean) are produced by warm water. The warmer climate produces warmer water—and more energy for giant tropical storms like these.

Scientists know that the warming climate driving the increasingly destructive storms has been produced by human industrial activity. Power plants, factories, oil wells, industrial farms, airplanes, trucks, and cars produce emissions called greenhouse gases that get into the atmosphere and trap the sun’s heat. Since the industrial revolution began about 200 years ago, that industrial activity has been concentrated in just a few places: the United States has produced by far the most greenhouse gases of any country, and the U.S. and Europe combined have produced more than half.

Yet these are not the countries hardest hit by the latest tropical storms—the worst affected are countries that have long been dominated by the United States. The U.S. fought a long bloody war to conquer the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century, before turning it into a colony for 50 years. U.S. forces have “intervened” there repeatedly since, most recently in 2017. And the U.S. has invaded or overthrown governments in the Central American countries of Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador dozens of times over the same period—in all cases, to protect the interests of the big U.S. companies and banks that dominate these countries’ economies, keeping the majority of the population in poverty.

So for more than one hundred years, people in these countries have borne some of the worst consequences of the domination of the world by the capitalist class centered here in the U.S. And these storms made worse by climate change are inflicting damage on people in these same countries—once again, damage that was largely made in the U.S.A.

It is inevitable that more migrants from these countries will try to come here in order to escape the completely desperate situations produced by these storms—and future ones. These migrants will have been driven from their homes by the same capitalist system that drives so many workers to desperation here.

No Gridlock for U.S. Military Budget Increases

Nov 23, 2020

In the middle of a raging pandemic, with record high unemployment, homelessness and hunger, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress say they are paralyzed by gridlock, that they can’t agree on how much money to spend on a new pandemic relief bill. But at the same time, both parties have quietly come together to approve the Pentagon’s request to boost military spending by another 10 billion, to 740 billion dollars.

No, there is no gridlock between the two parties when it comes to showering the military with ever more taxpayer money.

Of course, the Democrats and Republicans don’t totally agree on how to spend all that money. The Democrats want to buy “only” 91 F‑35 jet fighters from Lockheed Martin next year, while the Republicans say they want 96 jet fighters. But according to reports in Defense News, both parties want to buy many more planes than the Pentagon, which is requesting 79 new planes. There is also disagreement about how many submarines to pay for this year. The Democrats say they want to buy two new Virginia‑class submarines—which cost about $5.5 billion apiece to be built, while the Navy and Republicans asked for only one.

In any case, the Republicans and Democrats haven’t let any pandemic and economic collapse stop them from boosting U.S. spending on the military to levels not seen since World War II, including even more than was spent during the Vietnam and Korean Wars, as well as the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. U.S. military spending also exceeds the next 10 countries’ defense budgets combined and singlehandedly accounts for a hefty 40% of all military spending worldwide.

Why spend all this money in the middle of a pandemic that is international in scope when what is needed most is more resources to fight not just the disease, but the worsening economic hardship worldwide?

In fact, the Republicans and Democrats are simply safeguarding the interests of the U.S. capitalist class. They want to make sure that ever more U.S. troops, ships and planes patrol the land, sea and air all over the world, so that U.S. banks, oil companies, military contractors, and engineering companies can gain ever greater profits through exploitation of the worldwide workforce, while plundering and laying waste to other countries’ natural resources. For the U.S. capitalist class, this is especially important during a time of growing crisis, instability and unrest that they fear could endanger the capitalists’ investments and markets.

At the same time, both parties are boosting U.S. military spending in order to provide tremendous profits for the capitalist class on all those weapons systems during a time when other markets are collapsing. Big contractors like Boeing, Raytheon and Lockheed Martin make super profits that they then shower on their major stockholders through increased dividends and stock buybacks.

Even in supposedly ordinary times, military spending is like a giant cancerous tumor, sucking vital resources away from what the population needs, such as schools, hospitals, public health, roads and other vital social spending.

The fact that, in the middle of the pandemic and economic collapse, both parties continue to pour ever more money and resources into military spending shows just how much both parties are willing to sacrifice the working population and the entire society in order to serve the interests of the capitalist class.

Saudi Arabia:
Dictatorship Supported by the U.S. and France

Nov 23, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

On November 5 a United Nations committee on women’s rights called on Saudi Arabia to immediately release Loujain al‑Hathloul and all other women’s rights activists.

Loujain al‑Hathloul campaigned for the right of Saudi women to drive, and for an end to the system of guardianship which puts women at the total mercy of men. She has been on a hunger strike since October 26. Her family denounces the torture she has suffered since her arrest in May 2018.

Up to 200 activists languish in the prisons of Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman. They are sentenced to hundreds of lashes with whips. Women accused of adultery are assaulted with stones. Some convicts are beheaded. A year and a half ago 37 Saudi men were executed. According to Amnesty International, most were Shiite Muslims. At least 15 had demonstrated against the government in 2001 and 2012 in the eastern province, which is majority Shiite and quite poor. They told the court they were tortured during interrogation to get them to confess. Abdulkareem al Hawaj was only 16 at the time of his arrest but was also executed.

But the leaders of so‑called democratic countries like the U.S. and France roll out the red carpet for this barbaric regime. The president of France always denounces Islamic fundamentalism, except when it comes to the Saudi regime. There’s no mystery what’s going on. The Saudi regime is a strong supporter of imperialist interests in the Middle East. It is an important market for arms merchants who make their fortunes by producing weapons of death. Cities and villages in Yemen are being destroyed now in the ongoing war there.

Despite all his declarations of alleged reforms, the dictatorship of Mohammed bin Salman weighs heavily on the Saudi people, with the complicity of the leaders of the imperialist countries like the U.S. and France.

SpaceX Rises in NASA’s Shadow

Nov 23, 2020

Translated from Lutte Ouvrière (Workers’ Struggle), the newspaper of the revolutionary workers’ group active in France.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket brought four astronauts to the International Space Station on November 15. Both Biden and Trump praised this “American success” after nine years, during which the only such space taxis were Russia’s Soyuz rockets.

When NASA stopped using its space shuttles in 2011 after a tragic accident, the agency started a public‑private partnership agreement with SpaceX’s boss Elon Musk to supply the space station. Musk took full advantage of the facilities NASA had built up as a public agency, as well as the skills its engineers and technicians had acquired. And Musk enjoyed his new guaranteed contracts at top dollar which let him develop his new, reusable rocket under NASA’s wing.

In the 1950s the U.S. was faced both with the USSR’s advances in space flight and with private aerospace companies’ inability to pool their know‑how in order to plan programs as complex and expensive as visiting the moon. So the U.S. asserted control over them. The task required political and financial intervention by the government. Still, private entrepreneurs made huge profits and justified them by saying they were taking costly risks, even while NASA ensured them a secure and lucrative market. The whole history of capitalism is filled with similar situations.

Now that travel into near space is well established, NASA is handing it back to private industry. It subcontracts space missions to companies like SpaceX and Boeing, which makes the Starliner capsule. Amazon’s boss Jeff Bezos has Blue Origin. All these companies are making preparations to sell jaunts into orbit to wealthy tourists looking for thrills, and to launch and operate thousands of commercial communications satellites. Thrown into space without coordination, and even competing with each other, these satellites will repeat each other’s work. After ravaging land and sea, capitalism is well on its way to polluting space.

Pages 6-7

Spreading Epidemic, Deadly System

Nov 23, 2020

The following article was the editorial in SPARK workplace newsletters of November 16.

The first wave of Covid-19 hit Washington state, New York City, New Jersey, Detroit and New Orleans last March. The second wave hit Florida, Texas and much of the South in the summer. The third wave broke out in early fall in the Northern plains and the upper Midwest.

Today, mid-November, the virus is engulfing the whole country. On Friday, 181,000 cases were diagnosed, double what it was a week before. Thirty states reached new highs. No state had fewer cases than the week before. States that thought they had recovered got worse. The virus, at one time contained in the cities, overtook the countryside.

Nearly 70,000 people are now hospitalized for Covid, double the number of a month ago. In many rural areas, which today are suffering under the virus, there are no hospitals at all. The big for-profit chains, which took over medical systems several decades ago, closed down the few that had existed, deserting the countryside.

In states like North and South Dakota and Wisconsin, the hospitals that do exist were flooded with patients. Protective equipment was soon in short supply. So were nurses. Hospitals, worried about their profit margins, had already cut staff and equipment. Nurses, without adequate protective equipment, became infected; staffing reached even lower levels, critically lower levels.

Tomorrow there will be more states hit at this devastating level.

Doctors had learned, after the first wave of the epidemic, that if patients are regularly turned over on their stomach many fewer die. Today, in hard hit states, there isn’t enough staff to carry out that simple procedure. Without it, people die.

On Friday, this past week, 1,300 deaths from Covid-19 were recorded, 50% worse than it was the month before.

All of these figures are going up rapidly, doubling in a short space of time. That means, it will be worse next week, and worse again the week after that.

Promises of a vaccine—available, perhaps, sometime in the future—don’t change the trajectory we are currently caught in. The only thing we can be sure of is that every pharmaceutical company producing a vaccine is on line to increase its profits.

It has been obvious since the “first wave” hit that we were facing a deadly virus. Given how interconnected the whole world is by business and travel, this virus had the potential to spread rapidly. It did spread, jumping from one part of the world to another, from one part of this country to another.

The disaster we are caught in today was predictable last spring. In fact, given what medical science already knew about this kind of coronavirus, it was predictable in January, after it first appeared outside of China.

A political system, whose aim was to serve the needs of the population, faced with this emergency, would have responded with an emergency program. It would have reorganized itself, marshaled its resources, moved all the money needed from unnecessary expenditures. It would have gotten rid of tax breaks for the wealthy and subsidies for big banks and industrial corporations, put the money into public health.

Just the opposite happened. The 4-trillion-dollar CARES act, devoted less than 5% of its money to the medical system—and little of this went to patient care. It devoted little more than 10% for direct payments to the population. The vast amount went to businesses—and thus to their banks.

In other words, the political system did what it has been organized to do: it continued to defend the interests of the capitalist class, at the expense of the population.

A system like this—both economic and political—needs to be thrown out, replaced by one that facing an emergency like this would organize emergency measures.

What those measures should be is not the issue. Medical science has long known how to prevent the spread of an epidemic. What is needed is a political/economic system committed to acting on what is known.

Bosses Profit from CARES Act

Nov 23, 2020

For those whose jobs put them in contact with the public every day, the dangers of getting COVID-19 keep rising. Even where masks are mandated, the rules are not enforced all the time. So retail workers are especially at risk. Grocery workers represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union report more than 16,000 coronavirus cases so far and more than 100 deaths.

In the first few months of the pandemic, some so-called front line workers got higher pay or bonuses and most lower-income workers got the $1,200 from the congressional CARES Act.

Large retailers like Amazon, Target and Walmart, as well as Home Depot and Lowe’s, got billions from the CARES act. Lowes, for example, claims to have spent 800 million on their employees. They paid four billion to their stockholders!

Dollar General says it spent 73 million on employee bonuses. More than two billion to stockholders!

Corporations show they consider their stockholders 1,000 times more important than their employees. That tells all of us who work how much our employers value us.

Page 8

COVID‑19 Vaccine:
A Profit Bonanza

Nov 23, 2020

The medical search for a COVID‑19 vaccine resembles a gamble on a horse race. On September 9, Pfizer announced that its vaccine provides protection for people against COVID‑19 with 90% efficacy. A week later, Moderna topped Pfizer’s claim with a vaccine with a 94.5% effective rate. A few days later, Pfizer said they re‑analyzed the results, and that their vaccine provides 95% protection.

Wall Street reacted to this “positive” news with the overall stock market soaring to record highs. Pfizer’s CEO Bourla sold $5.6 million in stock the very day his company made its first announcement, making an instant fortune.

These companies’ press releases were based on clinical trials, that is, experiments in which tens of thousands of volunteers were vaccinated. However, when the press releases were carefully read, it was recognized that these companies were reporting “interim” results, and not final results. That is, these companies had not yet completed these human experiments and had not fully analyzed the results.

Usually the final results of such clinical trials are published in full detail in scientific journals in order to be analyzed by other scientists and regulatory medical bodies of the government, like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Typically, several more clinical trials are required before decisions on the effectiveness are reached and the vaccines are then applied to the population in large scale.

Instead, by taking all these short‑cuts, these companies were after quick profits before other companies had a chance to jump into the fray. Right now, there are 53 vaccine candidates in human clinical trials worldwide, and another 155 are in the research and development stage. So, since the other vaccines can also work like those of Moderna and Pfizer, whoever reports their results first gets the attention of the stock market speculators and stuffs their pockets with profits worth tens of billions of dollars.

Moderna, a start‑up company founded in 2010, has never produced a vaccine before, and it has never sold any products. Now it is worth $35 billion. Pfizer’s vaccine is based on the work of another start‑up company, BioNTech, founded in 2008, which also had never produced a vaccine and never sold a product. The value of that company is now said to be $22 billion. As for Pfizer, estimates are that its vaccine alone will bring the company close to $14 billion worldwide in 2021.

That means the vaccine will make a few people billionaires overnight.

Vaccine development should be in response to medical issues and not based on profit. But in the capitalists’ world, profits come first. To capitalists, society’s dire need to find a solution to a deadly pandemic is little more than an opportunity to make enormous profits and gain fabulous wealth.

Capitalism Unprepared for Vaccine Rollout

Nov 23, 2020

Two companies, Pfizer and Moderna, have estimated they will have enough doses of a COVID-19 vaccine to vaccinate 22.5 million people in the U.S. by the end of January. That is, a small section of the total U.S. population.

Producing billions of doses for large scale immunizations is a lot harder than making thousands of vaccine doses for a clinical trial.

Large scale vaccine production is a complex process, requiring precise ingredients and specialized equipment to produce and distribute them. All these are currently in short supply, showing how disorganized this capitalist society is in responding to this very deadly crisis.

Some of these vaccines are based on new technologies that come with new problems. For example, the Pfizer vaccine must be kept supercooled to 94 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, from the time it is produced until a few days before it is injected. Pfizer has devised an elaborate system to transport the vaccine by truck and specially designed packaging to vaccination sites, but deploying this vaccine in large quantities requires availability of vast numbers of such specialized equipment.

Besides solving these technical and manufacturing hurdles, health organizations like hospitals and clinics need to acquire equipment for vaccine storage and administration, and to employ health workers trained to deal with the specialized equipment. Acquiring such equipment and health care workers requires a level of funding health organizations currently do not have.

As these pharmaceutical companies admit in their press releases about the risks, they do not know how safe and effective these vaccines will be in real life circumstances when the public is vaccinated in massive numbers. Risks are usually assessed by tracking people over a period of time after they are vaccinated. But such tracking also requires financial resources to fund such post‑vaccination work, which is not being provided today in the rush to bring these vaccines to market.

Responsibility for on‑the‑ground vaccine distribution has largely been delegated to state and local health departments. These organizations were already underfunded and understaffed before the pandemic started, and are even more so now. They need billions more to carry out this work—and nothing has been proposed at any level of government. So how is it going to happen?

In general, shortages of healthcare workers, like nurses, had already been an ongoing issue in the U.S. for years before the pandemic even started. Now, healthcare facilities are facing even more extreme staff shortages because of the enormous spread of COVID‑19 across the U.S.

In sum, rolling out these vaccines for immunization of hundreds of millions of people in the U.S. and billions in this world is turning out to be a huge social task that capitalist society is showing itself incapable of implementing.