The Spark

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

Gary Walkowicz:
A Crisis of Covid, a Crisis of Capitalism

Aug 16, 2021

For the last 18 months, our lives have been defined by the Covid pandemic. Some of us have gotten seriously sick. Many of us know people who have died or have been hospitalized from Covid. Our jobs, our ability to make a living, our children’s education, have all been disrupted. Our interactions and relationships with our friends, with our neighbors, with our family members, were changed.

It didn’t have to be this bad. It is inevitable that some viruses will infect the human population. But we live under an economic system, capitalism, whose political leaders have made conscious decisions to not do the things that would have allowed us to deal with Covid or other contagious diseases.

Over the past decades, they have made decisions in the name of profit. Decisions to cut funding for our public health care system. To cut jobs in hospitals. To not produce enough masks and protective equipment, so they weren’t available when Covid struck. And at the beginning of Covid, when they could have spent money on an infrastructure to widely test people for Covid and slow the spread of the virus, they chose not to do so.

Instead of public money being spent on health care, the leaders of this capitalist system, for decades, have chosen to raid the public treasury and send as much money as they can to the banks and the corporations and the wealthy. During this pandemic, the rich have only gotten richer. Meanwhile, in this country alone, over 600,000 people have died from Covid. Over 4 million people have died worldwide. That is the price we have paid for living under capitalism.

Today there are several vaccines being produced to protect people from getting seriously sick or dying from Covid. But today we are not close to being safe from Covid. Because the drug companies that produce the vaccine are only concerned about maximizing their profits. Other companies and other countries could be producing more of the vaccine today, but they aren’t able to do so because the governments of the wealthy countries protect the drug companies’ patents and their profits above all else.

According to the World Health Organization, in the wealthiest countries like the U.S., for every 100 people, there have been 100 vaccine doses administered. In the poorer countries, for every 100 people, only 1.5 doses have been given. It’s outrageous that all the politicians running the wealthy countries will lie to their populations and tell them that they can be isolated and protected from the virus when the rest of the world is not protected.

Today the Delta variant is rapidly spreading in the U.S. It came from India, a country which has the manufacturing facilities to produce the Covid vaccine—but it can’t produce enough for the needs of its own population, because the patents and profits of the U.S. and European drug companies are being protected. And so Covid spreads around the world, and the longer the virus spreads, the more chance there is that other variants will emerge. The vaccines could well be able to protect us from Covid, but the functioning of the capitalist system is standing in the way.

So far, the Covid vaccines seem to be working when people get it; they seem to be effective to keep people from dying or getting seriously ill.

But even in the countries where the vaccine is available, we can’t escape a capitalist system where people know that profit comes first, which has led to a lot of concern and controversy about the Covid vaccines. We have to admit that people have a reason to be skeptical—of drug companies that only care about profit, of a corrupt government, of politicians who tell lie after lie to the population. It’s understandable that some people today don’t trust what they are told about the vaccines, when it is being told to them by these people.

Some politicians create doubt about the vaccines for their own political advantage. Other politicians, along with corporate leaders and the owners of the media, are now trying to put the blame for the spread of Covid on those people who have not been vaccinated. The people who run this society totally failed in organizing an effective response to the Covid pandemic. Their capitalist system did not work when dealing with this issue of life and death. But they try to cover up their own failure and the failure of their system by blaming those ordinary people who have nothing to do with running this system.

And on top of that, they are now trying to divide the population, trying to pit those people who are vaccinated against those who are not. Trying to get us angry at each other. They are trying to shift the blame off their economic system, which has utterly failed to stop Covid.

But they are also trying to divide us for another reason. It’s the reason they always try to divide us. The wealthy people know that there are a lot more of us working class people than there are of them. They know that when we come together, we have a lot of power. And they know that we have many reasons today to use that power. All of us working people, whether we are vaccinated or not, are facing the same problems. We are living under a system that doesn’t work for us.

We are not just dealing with Covid. Low wages, high prices, a lack of affordable housing and not enough good paying jobs. This is what the working class is facing today. We are not just living through a Covid crisis. We are also living through a crisis of capitalism. It is a crisis that has been going on for decades and is only getting worse.

The only answer to this crisis is the same answer that the working class always has. We have to use the full power we have to make a fight to defend ourselves against the capitalist class that is responsible for the crisis.

The working class has to bring its forces together. We can’t let the bosses divide us, black and white, men and women, immigrant and native born, vaccinated and unvaccinated. And we have to make this fight on our own terms. We have to fight when we are ready, when enough workers are ready to start a fight that will pull other workers along behind them, and then we can use our full power.

We make everything run, so we can make everything in the capitalists’ system come to a stop. And because we make everything run, we also have the power to organize a different system, a system run for the health and the needs of all people, instead of a system run only for profit.