The Spark

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

Scientific Half-truths on Origins of COVID-19

Jun 7, 2021

Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Donald Trump, QAnon, and others on the right-wing promoted the idea that Chinese scientists engineered the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus as a bioweapon and intentionally released it on the world. Trump and others, clearly intending to whip up hatred against China and Asian-Americans, inferred such a connection by referring to the disease using xenophobic terms like the “Kung Flu,” the “China virus” or the “Wuhan virus.”

These same views are gaining currency again today as right-wing news commentators look to defend conspiracy theories in support of Trump policies.

In reaction, many on the left considered the idea a crackpot conspiracy theory, and in doing so, dismissed even the possibility that the virus may have accidentally leaked from a lab. They insisted that COVID-19 simply came from direct contact between humans and infected bats.

Recently President Biden, under political pressure, came out in support of an investigation into the origins of the virus. It appears possible that as far back as 2012, six Chinese miners may have been infected with a similar virus while shoveling bat guano, and three died. It is possible that while the miners were hospitalized, the virus evolved into a new human form. Blood samples from some of these patients were sent to the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Some scientists have suggested that researchers at the WIV may have been involved in what is called “Gain-of-Function” research that led to the evolution of the human form of the COVID-19 virus from the original bat virus.

In other words—these are only little hints, just as previous reports about a “wild meat market” were only hints. Based on what science currently knows, while it is not correct to insist that the COVID-19 virus was “engineered” in this Chinese lab, it is also not correct to insist that it was not. It is also not true that this was solely an activity of the Chinese scientists. U.S. government agencies allocated funding for this research conducted in China and seven other countries in Southeast Asia.

It is certainly true that infectious viruses and bacteria leak from labs all the time. The World Health Organization linked an outbreak of SARS to a leak from a lab in Beijing. Chinese labs are hardly alone, however. A deadly bacteria leaked from a primate research center in New Orleans and infected monkeys which were not part of any research there. There is even evidence that Lyme disease spread from a U.S. bioweapons lab.

It would certainly be in the interest of humanity to learn the origins of the COVID-19 virus, but that is not the primary concern of politicians and scientific officials clamoring for investigation of the Wuhan lab. Whatever the source of the virus, their concern is to hide their own responsibility and that of their capitalist bosses for the horrible mismanagement of the pandemic that has resulted in the loss of millions of lives and chronic health problems for many more.

While some officials are more willing than others to openly declare their racist attitudes, others use an “appeal to science” to encourage the view in the population that the enemy lies in some other country, in this case China.

It’s how for decades they’ve used anti-free-trade rhetoric to make workers believe the source of their problems lies in China, Japan or Mexico. While some of them decry the recent horrifically violent attacks against Asian-Americans, in the end they stoke the flames behind those attacks.

In the end, it all shows just how distorted science is under capitalism. Solving mysteries like the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic and preventing others like it requires getting rid of the system whose main goal is putting profits before human lives.