By Pratyush Nilotpal
Like the Bubonic Plague of medieval world, the modern world today is grappling with Corona pandemic that has englufed almost all part of the globe.
Originating from China, the virus has made Europe its new epicentre and shows no signs of abatting, on the contrary, it is being speculated that the worse is still to come.
World over governments from Left to Right are forced to admit that they are in midst of a crisis of scale hitherto unheard or witnessed in the recent past.
People are quarantined, cities locked out and countries on verge of self isolating themselves.
China and Italy the two worst hit countries are struggling with this Virus, which was unknown to the common people just few months ago.
World-over panic has engulfed all and with more and more people coming in grip of the pandemic, the fear level is soaring.
The media is dishing out its daily dose of data with little or no information. And squarely ignored is how this global emergency is a ‘gift’ for us from capitalism.
Capitalism has a unique power, it has ability to commodify anything.
Even Corona has been commodified; so now it has a use-value for the capitalists if not for the common Simons! And this is being executed like the perfect notes of an opera, a tact that people at large are oblivious to their own quagmire!
Whatever be the human cost, the virus has come as a boon for the military-industrial complex, providing it with the desperately needed vital sap, so has it been a manna for the government be it leftist, authoritarian or even fascistic.
The response to this epidemic, since beginning was as per the government SOP i.e ignore, conceal till the matter goes out of hand and skeletons starts to fall out of the cabinet.
From China to US, we saw the same response. When for the first time the experts witnessed the ‘birth’ of this virus, they were cajoled often with official pressure to keep the disease from being investigated and reported to larger audience.
In December, Dr Li Wenliang working in Wuhan had notified or tried to notify the doctors about new outbreak of virus, that he initially thought to be SAAR which had broken in 2003.
Few days after his message, he was detained by the authority in a botched attempt to ignore the warning and was even asked to sign a statement promising not to spread rumors, having potential of causing social disturbances.
After the authorities could neither ignore nor conceal the infection, they acknowledged the situation and only then on 20th January did declare emergency. Almost a month later since Dr Wenliang notified about it’s existence.
By then this young doctor was himself diagnosed having infected from Corona and later succumbed to the disease, that he himself had found, joining the long list of people who were.persecuted for their scientific work.
The authorities had no shame in elevating him to the status of a hero and even issued an apology, but bureaucracy as its character had done the harm.
Fighting bureaucracy was one of the avowed principle of the Chinese revolution. But as revolution merges with the state, it embodies the characteristics of the latter and with this comes all the baggage of state apparatus.
State wants to protect itself and in this attempt of self-preservation it sees all calamities as deviations that should be ignored as long as it can. The ostrich approach is what each state adopts and wants us all to adopt too, even if it has to be done under the shadow of force!
What could have been done had those crucial days would not have been lost is now subject of debate and counter debate. But could the authorities or the so-called Communist government had done something different? Our answer is no. Any government be it from Left or Right, past or present would have adopted the same stand. First ignore then deny and if it is blown out then go into false propaganda of everything under control mode!
And herein lies a fundamental question that the future revolutionary governments as and when formed would have to grapple with.
Government by its inherent dynamics is status-quoist (at least when it is surrounded by capitalist system), but the party of the working class is not. The merger of party and state robs the dynamic character of the party and it metamorphoses itself as a vehicle of status quo, an embodiment of the state.
Had this not been discussed in past? In fact if we turn back to Lenin he gives us the answer. In his response to Trotsky on the question of Trade Unions, we find what the genius strategist had to say:
We now have a state under which it is the business of the massively organised proletariat to protect itself, while we, for our part, must use these workers’ organisations to protect the workers from their state, and to get them to protect our state.
What Lenin said about trade unions is it also not valid for the party?
Even Stalin has said about same segregation (one can refer to the well researched article, Stalin and Struggle for Democratic Reforms, by Grover Furr).
The Chinese syndrome found its support in other parts and most noticeable was the response from Trump who has institutionalised idioticity as a human trait.
The POUS until 11 March, brushed aside the news as Democratic Party nuisance carried by the fake news agencies. Apart from banning entry to foreign nationals who had visited China, US did nothing. In fact Trump went on a hysterical nationalist rhetoric calling COVID-19 a “foreign virus”, and an innocuous aberration when compared with flu.
While the experts were stating about the new virus as something previously unknown, the self declared omniscients of the world, were comparing it sometimes with common flu or as is the case in our country a curse to the non Hindu world.
While China botched time in denial when it could have used it for making necessary preparation, the world learnt nothing.
Capitalists find opportunity in every disasters, they are the undertakers and priests combined in one, then how could their government be different.
Trump saw in this epidemic an opportunity undermining China and asking US companies to come back. While his trade adviser Peter Navarro said that the US would give no tariff relief even if the Chinese economy began to tank because of the epidemic. All done to “Make America Great Again”.
Yet the country took no preventive steps in containing the infection. The effect of which is evident in front of us.
Capitalism is economically self destructive and demagauge socially. And the events of past few decades is ample proof. This phenomenon was further exacerbated during the times of neo-liberalism.
The state for the sake of private profit withdrew from social responsibility. Focusing on increase tax on working class and in protection of capital. The privatisation of profit and socialisation of loss, took an extreme manifestation. From US to India and from first world to third world, we thus see the same story unfolding with different events and characters but having same leitmotif.
In fact it would not be exaggeration to say that neo-liberalism has only accentuated the culture of reaping obnoxious scale of profit, that capitalism always did. Capitalism since its inception has always been supporter and promoter of special interests and big donors so they advance their interests at the expense of the working people.
This is evident in the way various government’s world over handed over the social responsibility to the corporates. In name of austerity, the government reduced its funding from sectors like health care, social welfare, old age care, pension, public research.
As per the information available In Italy, 46,500 healthcare jobs were cut from 2009-2017. 70,000 hospital beds have been lost. Italy had 10.6 hospital beds per 1,000 people in 1975 – now it’s 2.6! Britain went from 10.7 beds per 1,000 people in 1960 to 2.8 in 2013. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of available hospital beds was reduced by 30 percent in Britain!
The case of India is even more precarious. The health system is dysfunctional and has collapsed for all practical purposes.
The country has only half the prescribed number of doctors as recommended by the WHO.
There is only one primary health care centre majority being manned by single doctor for 51,000 people.
Majority of population is denied basic health access and the public hospitals are overcrowded understaffed, underfunded and several lacks even the basic facility.
With such dismal state, India spends just about 1 per cent of GDP on health and that translates to 1657 Rupees (approx 21 dollar) per person per year, being the lowest amount amdist similar or more developed economy.
So it is not surprise to see high mortality rate due to common diseases in India when compared with other countries.
In an interview published in Scroll.in, country’s leading virologist Jacob John, pointed to the dismal record,
the global mortality rate for the H1N1 flu is 0.1%, which is one in a thousand people. But in India, the H1N1 mortality rate is around 5%, which is 50 in a thousand people. This gives you a clue that we have not been able to handle pandemic flus. Our infrastructure is not geared to face them, so how will we handle a newcomer disease like coronavirus?
Hence, it leaves no doubt that how equipped is the world’s second most populus country.
Since the start of the so called reforms, subsequest governments both at the centre and state level had systematically withdrawn themselves from the health and social welfare sector.
In name of ‘efficiency’ and investment both euphemisms for unbridled profit, public sector was replaced by the private sector.
And health became the largest casulty.
With Modi the task of privatisation has increased. Niti Ayog recommended to privatise even the dilapidated primary centers and district hospitals.
Modi government has taken another step, that is to make health insurance based with his program of giving 5 lakhs (.5 million) rupees as health insurance. This has only reaped more profit to the private insurance companies than to the common people.
With mushrooming of private hositals mostly ill equipped and having similarly ill qualified severely underpaid and exploited staff, the aim has shifted from providing quality health service to that of fleecing money.
Services have become not only costly but also out of reach from the poor.
So, when Modi in his televised speech on Corona Virus gave a solution of Janta Curfew (People’s curfew or self quarantine) and asked people to clap and bang utensils, should it have come as a surprise to the people of country where the government has become agent of capitalism and the present one converting every event to theatrics…?
To be continued….