Editorial: Capitalism Is the Virus

Capitalism Isn't Working

This is the editorial for the second issue of our special digital bulletin, which Socialist Revolution has been producing amidst the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to get a subscription to the bulletin—which will include print Socialist Revolution magazine issues physical production is resumed.

An unprecedented economic, health, political, and social crisis has come crashing down on the working class. It’s as though the Spanish Influenza, Great Depression, September 11, and Great Recession were rolled into a whole greater and more terrible than the sum of its parts.

The last few weeks have seen over 36 million newly unemployed and the U6 unemployment rate now stands at 22.8%. More Americans have died due to COVID-19 than in the imperialist wars in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan combined. Four in ten Americans now say they personally know someone who has been diagnosed with the virus—double the number last month. And while big profits continue to be made on Wall Street, GDP, industrial production, and retail sales have gone into free fall.

With November looming large, Trump is praying for a miraculous rebound to usher him into the White House for a second term. Unsurprisingly, a majority of Americans disapprove of how the government has handled the crisis. But while most of his core supporters have still not abandoned him, most self-identified Democrats blame the president personally for the unfolding disaster. We must reject this false two-party dichotomy and recognize that this is not a Trump crisis or a COVID-19 crisis—but a crisis bought and paid for by capitalism.

This is not a Trump crisis or a COVID-19 crisis—but a crisis bought and paid for by capitalism. / Image: Pixabay

The meager gains made by the bottom 95% of the population since 2009 have been wiped out. To add insult to injury, the strategists of capital predict that the next ten years will be yet another “lost decade.” In other words, for as long as this system is allowed to continue, all workers, and especially the youth, are condemned to a lifetime of austerity, uncertainty, and instability.

The capitalist spectacle of hoarding, profiteering, corruption, and ever-rising wealth and income disparity is on full display. While the life savings and hopes for a better future of millions have vanished without a trace, the billionaires have added a further $308 billion to their grotesque wealth in just a few weeks. Jeff Bezos, whose profits are predicated on exploiting the labor of millions, is now richer than ever—while many of “his” workers are infected and die from the disease.

Under pressure to get back into the market before their competitors, many companies and states are rushing to reopen—but this will only unleash new waves of illness and death. Frontline workers, and especially black and Latino workers, have been hit hardest by the virus, and are treated like expendable fodder for the capitalist profit-making grinder. Although we are fed the saccharine lie that “every life is precious,” the reality is that under capitalism, some lives are worth much more than others. The class you belong to directly affects whether or not you’ll survive if infected.

Amazon Workers Coronavirus
Although we are fed the saccharine lie that “every life is precious,” the reality is that frontline workers are treated like expendable fodder for the capitalist profit-making grinder. / U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Chief Justin Stumberg

Defending not their jobs, but their very lives, American workers have launched over 200 wildcat strikes since the beginning of March, as mostly non-union workers begin to organize and fight back for better protections and pay. Organized labor should be at the forefront of mobilizing the heavy battalions of the working class in support of these strikes. Instead, the top union leaders continue their sycophantic class collaboration and apologism for a system that lives off the exploitation and oppression of billions.

They refuse to acknowledge that the economic calamity triggered by the virus can only be defeated through class struggle. Instead of exposing the total failure of the system for what it is, they have the nerve to declare that they see “encouraging signs” when it comes to the “stress test” the pandemic has meant for capitalism. Instead of mobilizing the workers for militant, class-independent strikes and occupations, they hope that “respect forged in the crucible of the crisis … will allow Americans to prosper once again.”

American workers have launched over 190 wildcat strikes since the beginning of March, but have been all but abandoned by the sycophantic official labor leadership.

Contrast this cowardice and outright betrayal to the “appeal to the workers of the world” made by the Italian comrades of the IMT. Their revolutionary internationalist appeal—“The Workers Are Not Cannon Fodder”—is included in this issue of our special monthly digital bulletin. Also in this issue, Adam Booth gives us a peek at what the world may look like after the lockdown measures are eased, and Ari S. analyzes the recent spate of right-wing protests in the US.

Erika Roedl takes up the question of needless waste and artificial scarcity in the food sector, and Andrew Wagner blows the roof off the so-called “efficiency of the market” hypothesis when it comes to finding a vaccine for COVID-19. Clark A. and Antonio Balmer delve into the class contradictions brewing in the military as a result of the pandemic, and Leroy James lays bare the racist foundations of American society, evidenced yet again its response to the virus.

While the full repercussions of the crisis cannot be predicted in advance, we can say with certainty that the course of human society has been fundamentally and irrevocably altered. A historical tipping point has been reached and there is a clear-cut “before and after” the virus. But whereas the “before” laid the groundwork for the scale of the present catastrophe, the “after” will ultimately be decided by the working class—the only force in society that can carry us out of the abyss.

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