“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx
Jan 18, 2021
The following is translated from the January 4 workplace newsletter of the French revolutionary group Lutte Ouvrière.
The questions raised by the Covid-19 vaccination drive show how capitalism and the pursuit of profit contaminate everything, including humanity’s greatest conquests.
The invention of vaccines was a leap forward that is widely recognized. Smallpox has disappeared. Poliomyelitis, which has lifelong consequences, has been virtually eradicated. In Africa, the Ebola disease is expected to be stamped out thanks to the vaccine developed by scientists, who now dream of developing vaccines against cancer.
And yet in France, where more than 64,000 people have died from COVID-19, over half the population is said to be reluctant to be vaccinated, despite the threat of a third epidemic wave. We are therefore in the absurd situation where an additional tool to contain this harmful epidemic is available, but many people are reluctant to use it.
The government says it regrets people’s mistrust, but it is actually using that mistrust to clear itself of responsibility. They keep repeating that “it’s the population’s fault”! But whose fault is it, if not the government’s? It has mismanaged the crisis for the past year, mixing irresponsibility with outright lies. Who is responsible for the ridiculously slow rate of vaccination, if not the government? Macron may pretend to be angry, but he is the one primarily responsible for the inadequate preparation!
As for the lack of trust in the COVID-19 vaccine, it is partly due to the fact that the pharmaceutical laboratories and capitalist companies that designed it attend to their shareholders before they attend to us.
The task of vaccinating three or four billion human beings is a bonanza that guarantees years of profit for shareholders. No laboratory could resist the temptation of financial gain, and they all joined the race to see who among them, Pfizer, Moderna, Sanofi or AstraZeneca, would hold the first clinical trials and whose vaccine would be approved first. When Pfizer and BioNTech announced the promising results of their vaccine, their stock market value soared, allowing Pfizer’s CEO to cash in several million dollars.
They carry out their maneuvers in complete financial opacity. How much have governments spent to help vaccine research and production? How much do they pay per dose? What is the cost price? What is the laboratories’ margin? Confidentiality clauses prevent the population from knowing the answers to these questions! One thing is sure, the pharmaceutical groups that are first on the vaccine market will also lead the stock market race.
Since the tainted blood scandal and the Mediator and Depakine drug scandals, we know that pharmaceutical companies will unhesitatingly lie about their products, going as far as poisoning patients to continue to make profits. These companies don’t deserve our trust!
We need to suppress trade secrecy which makes it illegal for employees to divulge information concerning the products they work on. Researchers, laboratory technicians, manufacturing workers, transporters, nurses and doctors must be allowed to expose the problems and dysfunctions they come across, without running the risk of losing their job or being submitted to any kind of pressure.
Only working people can control the pharmaceutical industry by imposing transparency at all stages of the vaccine manufacturing chain. They have no other interest than that of public health. Imposing an efficient control of this kind is the bare minimum.
Those who accept vaccination will be expressing their trust in the scientists, doctors, pharma workers and technicians who make the vaccines—not in the multinational companies and the governments that bow down to them.
In our everyday consumption of goods, we have no choice but to accept the conditions imposed by capitalist firms like Dannon, Nestlé, Renault, etc. But we place our trust in the workers and engineers who manufacture these goods. We trust their professional skills and dedication, not the greed and irresponsibility of shareholders.
That some people may be reluctant to receive a COVID-19 vaccination is indicative of how capitalist greed can undermine the efforts of thousands of researchers and the most promising scientific discoveries. It sheds light on the cost society has to pay when it leaves entire sectors of the economy, including the vital health sector, in the hands of groups that only believe in competition and profit-making.
For vaccination, as for everything else, the future depends on the ability of workers to wrest the major means of production from the hands of capitalists and put them to work for the general public. The best possible New Year’s wish for 2021 is for this idea to spread among all working people.