the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist
“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx
Sep 27, 2021
The “Spanish flu” epidemic of 1918 killed about 675,000 Americans, by the CDC’s estimate. The COVID-19 epidemic has now killed 675,000 Americans and is predicted to kill 100,000 more by January 1.
In 1918, there was a war on, and troops were sent from base to base for training and then sent overseas, all while the virus killed them by the hundreds. Some cities used strict quarantine and isolation measures, and lost fewer people; some cities such as Philadelphia defied public health officials and held parades to promote the war. In such cities, many more people died.
They didn’t know about viruses or have electron microscopes or vaccines in 1918, but they knew contagion and death. In the 100 years since, science has studied such epidemics and has a very refined understanding of viruses, the different strains, and how to combat them. Yet the death tolls are now identical and today’s will soon be greater.
Like the war of 1918, the bosses have decided that the global economy of 2021 must go on. Quarantining, testing and tracing, well-known public health measures, had to yield to the pressure of getting the economy moving again—that is, turning the flow of profits back on. Rigorous safety measures are too costly for the billionaires’ system. So the basic, perfectly good, effective public health measures won’t be organized or funded. The necessary workers won’t be hired. Just get the vaccine and go to work! Go to school! So what if we carry the virus, so what if we infect others, so what if the hospitals are beyond capacity for months, so what if we run out of nurses and doctors? The profit-making machinery must run! The public health machinery, not so much; and only so much as will generate profit margins and dividends.
The 1918 flu epidemic spread and killed relentlessly because of the demands and pressures of that day’s capitalist economy. A hundred years later, we have astoundingly advanced science, and all the lessons of that and other epidemics. But we still have the capitalist economy. We still suffer from the same profits-first demands and pressures.
A hundred years later, capitalism produces the same social results, the same unnecessary deaths, the same global spread, the same endless medical emergency. It’s a system that should be eradicated.