The response to the coronavirus pandemic cannot be read in isolation of capitalism in terminal decline. In a sentence it is another example of nature biting back against its destruction at the hands of capitalism over centuries and exploding today. So a coronavirus that has jumped species probably from bats via other animals to humans is but one of the many breakdowns of capitalism in terminal crisis which needs to be traced back to its fundamental cause.
We can work back from the pandemic through immediate causes to intermediary causes all the way to the fundamental causes of terminal crisis so as to then discover the knowledge necessary to build a new society.
To illustrate this, the virus itself has probably been around in bats for a long time. But not as long as the viruses that lurk beneath the tundra that are about to be spread through methane bombs. But bats and humans had distinct ecologies, and co-existed with their viruses, until the late 19th century when global capitalism began to invade and eliminate human and other species boundaries. This has been turbocharged by the effects of extreme climate change forcing migration from existing habitats.
All this this apparent chaos is not the function of globalisation, overpopulation or neoliberalism, as such, they are symptomatic of deeper causes. These are the imperialist exploitation of colonies and semicolonies which plunders and extracts human and physical resources to the point of ecological collapse.
Nor is overpopulation more than a symptom because it ignores the way in which people are distributed by imperialism – into overdeveloped rich nations and underdeveloped poor nations and regions, where the demographic of the rich nations is of a declining white race, while that of the poor nations is an impoverished, overcrowded and black and brown reserve of cheap labour.
Nor, again, is the free market or neo-liberalism, more than a symptom of capitalism in deep decline destroying the historic gains of the labour movement in a desperate attempt to restore profits. A futile effort when the conditions for profitability are being terminated by the capitalocene in extremis.
Capitalism in decline has exposed in all of its hubris, many forces over which it has no control and which destroy the conditions for its own existence – in sum a functioning ecosphere. Taking off for planet B is a rich mans Silicon Valley sci-fi fantasy.
Obviously these same forces, among them pandemics, drought, famine, floods, nuclear meltdowns, ecological collapse, threaten the extinction of all life on the planet. Yet despite such forces being beyond capitalism’s control, they do not absolutely determine the fate of humans because they can free themselves from the irrational chaos of dying capitalism.
What separates humans from other species is capacity for thought and planned action. This does not cover raiding supermarkets. Yet even under capitalism in all of its destruction, it is evident in some of the responses to coronavirus spread. Humans can, even as politicians representing capital, act in the interests of defending capitalism’s conditions of existence, i.e. a population of healthy workers and consumers necessary for profits. China, Taiwan and Singapore used proactive authoritarian methods to lock down and screen population movements to mitigate if not stop the spread. Others nations caught up with more ‘democratic’ pretensions, have waited for advice from the WHO and failed to proactively mitigate or contain the spread.
What this illustrates is that collective capitalist state-led responses are necessary to resist pandemics. But at the same time they cannot become truly collective, certainly not democratic, unless they break with the interests of the capitalist ruling classes who refuse to fund a health system that can cope with let along proven pandemics.
As the resistance to action on climate change proves, these responses will be too little, too late, uncoordinated, meet resistance from below, and be overwhelmed by the accumulating effects of a collapsing capitalism world economy.
Therefore, the only hope of humans surviving this tidal wave of destruction is to eliminate the root cause, the deadly inertia of a dying capitalism with its hidebound institutions locked into the short-term profit interests of the tiny ruling classes.
We can turn globalisation from imperialist destruction, into global unity of all working and oppressed peoples. We can turn overpopulation from slums, disease and famine, into communes everywhere capable of building sustainable habitation. We can turn the capitalist market into its opposite, the economic and social plans of the communes, as the coordinated democratic will of the people globally to build a new society which restores humanity and nature as one.
That is the logic of humanity rescuing itself from disaster. It needs to happen, and it is happening now, in all of the migration of peoples from poor to rich countries; of the spontaneous uprisings against military dictatorships; millions on the streets fighting for basic rights; of women and youth mobilising against dying capitalism; but what is lacking it a clear vision of the new society and how to get there.
There is only one vision of a society beyond capitalism that has shown the way forward, and capable of learning from the lessons of history, and that is revolutionary socialism. That is the discussion we need now, today, because it will sort out those who are prepared to fight together for survival, and those who represent the dying past, and release our amazing human potential to imagine and create a liberating future.
Dave Brownz is TDBs guest Marxist because every Left wing blog needs a Marxist