Planning. It’s something we do every day. On a personal level, we plan our meals, our work, our housekeeping, our leisure time. Sometimes our plans are interrupted by welcome surprises, sometimes they are thwarted by unforeseen circumstances. Then we make new plans.
As human activity has grown more complex with the growth of technology and social organization, so has the need for planning. The development of the computer, fortunately, has made it much easier to crunch the data and plan ahead.
Right now, a dangerous pandemic is racing around the world. The richest country of all, one with great technological development, is now confronting the novel coronavirus COVID-19. As this is written, on March 23, the United States has the appalling distinction of being the country with the largest number of new cases of COVID-19 in the world — 1,524 and growing. (worldometers.info/coronavirus)
China, where the virus first broke out, appears to have contained the epidemic, with only 39 new cases.
Of course, there are many more people in China than in the U.S. A look at the number of cases per million people — which include active cases as well as those who either died or got well — shows another sharp difference. The figure for China is 56 cases per million people. For the U.S. it is 106 per million — nearly twice the rate.
The U.S. government and local authorities had plenty of time to plan for this epidemic. It shouldn’t have taken anyone by surprise. But the figures show that nowhere near enough was done, and people are getting sick and dying as a result.
And who suffers the most is also clear. While the virus knows no class boundaries, the vast majority of those who die lack adequate health care, have jobs that put them in contact with many other people daily, and/or are already in poor health from previous conditions. In other words, the majority are workers.
At the same time, the U.S. is going through an economic collapse that even government officials are beginning to call a depression. The measures taken in an attempt to limit the epidemic have undoubtedly sped up the economic implosion, but the economy was starting to buckle even earlier.
The spread of the virus, its deadly impact and the economic collapse all point to one thing: lack of planning.
What kind of planning is needed?
This is a capitalist country, a rich and imperialist one whose ruling class exploits workers not just here but around the world. Those rulers know how to plan — because the existing system requires a lot of planning to keep it running!
But for what purpose? In order to maximize profits. When profits are threatened — as they are in every cyclical capitalist downturn — the first thought by the ruling class is how to protect their investments. Everything else is secondary.
It’s not just that capitalists are bad people. (Well, most of them are really awful.) It’s that their relationship to their wealth compels them to be cynical and greedy, and to make decisions that are in the interests of their private capital and not in the interests of society.
As the economic and health crises both deepen, more workers are going to be thinking about what kind of society they need. The growing popularity of socialism over capitalism, especially among young people, has found expression in the Sanders campaign.
But it will take far more than that to make even a dent in this system, which is completely dependent on the exploitation of labor for private gain.
The means of production were built by the workers. The capitalists never laid one brick, plowed one field or sewed one garment. They have expropriated the wealth built by the working class.
That wealth must be liberated so that all economic activity can be planned to meet the needs of the people. That liberating system is called socialism. Let’s get used to claiming that word proudly!
The elections will come and go. The increased suffering of the great masses of working people hit by the virus of capitalist crisis will only increase. The time to focus on building the movement for revolutionary change is now.