The Spark

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

People Didn’t Cause the Spread of Covid

Apr 12, 2021

The following is the editorial from SPARK’s workplace newsletters, for the week of April 5, 2021.

Easter weekend was the busiest travel day of the year. More people on the roads. More people in parks, more people in hotels, many more people in airports and on planes. It was a kind of “jailbreak” by fed-up people. Many people ignored the warnings that Covid is spreading.

Did some people do foolish things over this weekend? Undoubtedly. But the basic problem does not stem from the population.

The CDC, itself, had announced that it is OK for people who had been fully vaccinated to travel, to take planes and other public forms of transportation, so long as they maintained behavior to mitigate the spread: wear masks in public; avoid crowds; respect social distancing around others.

People who traveled by air could not respect these proscriptions because the airlines made it impossible. Delta sold so many tickets that it had more people traveling than it had planes for them. People on 100 cancelled flights discovered they were being stuffed into other flights, so crowded that “social distancing” could not be respected.

Delta did not have enough pilots or flight attendants to get all the flights it had scheduled off the ground. It was short of ground crew, short of maintenance, short of people running the gates. Delta excused itself by saying its work force had been reduced by Covid infection. Well, yes, of course, there’s an epidemic. But Delta was doing what every company always does, regardless: it contrived to squeeze more profit out of not enough facilities, more profit out of too few workers.

Other airlines did similar things. The government’s own TSA did it on an even bigger scale. People waited a long time in line to go through a security gate too packed for anyone even to pretend they were respecting a 6-foot distance in every direction from all other people around them.

Since the beginning of this epidemic, those who own the responsibility for the spread of this virulent virus have tried to palm off responsibility for stopping it onto the population.

Certainly, some people are foolish about not wearing masks. And yes, the virus can be deadly, no matter how some politicians pretend otherwise to get attention.

But why, in this wealthy country, has a virus been able to spread? Why was so much unknown about it? THESE are the questions to ask.

Governments, as far back as the Reagan administration, regularly cut funding for public health, the organization that knows how to block a spread of a new infectious disease. Public money, which long ago should have gone to research into the whole family of corona viruses, went instead to increase the wealth of a few hundred billionaires.

Why weren’t hospitals able to service the population when the virus hit? In the midst of the economic crisis, they have increasingly been organized to channel a stream of profit into private hands. As a result, they were short of staff and of space to attend to people whose ailment did not produce extravagant amounts of profit.

The population paid the price—in deaths, which day after day continued to mount, and in illnesses, from which many still are not recovered.

We also paid the price of being subjected to an inhumane lock down—the reactionary way this system found to deal with a spreading virus. Many of us lost jobs. Many more have been impoverished. We could not care for many elders. Our children weren’t being educated. We were even told not to shake hands, don’t mention hugging each other.

This capitalist system, by its essential mechanisms that push profit at the expense of every human consideration, turned the biological problem of a new virus into a social catastrophe. Its political hacks in both parties, who stand always ready to serve the class that sits at the very top of this economic system, worked to excuse it, to shift the blame for what happened onto the population.

The conclusion should be obvious: this capitalist system is what’s to blame for the catastrophe. Its basic mechanisms will cause others. If we are to have decent lives, capitalism will have to be ripped up, root and branch, and replaced.