The COVID-19 crisis is shedding a glaring light on the contradictions and failures of capitalism. Millions of lives are at risk — and it doesn’t have to be this way.
Here in the United States — a country that for more than a century has been in the forefront of the world’s most economically developed nations — the pandemic is killing hundreds of people every day. Nearly a quarter million people in the U.S. have died of the virus since last December — less than a year. That’s nearly a fifth of all the deaths in the world from this disease.
Why do we say capitalism is responsible? Just compare the U.S. to the People’s Republic of China — which is NOT capitalist.
China has a much bigger population — 1.4 billion people, or four times the U.S. population of 331 million — living on about the same amount of land. And before China’s socialist revolution triumphed in 1949, its development had been held back by imperialist interventions — from Japan, the U.S. and Europe.
China was also the first country to be hit by the coronavirus. The first case was reported in Wuhan, back in December 2019.
The Chinese government had to quickly mobilize just to find out what was happening with this new disease. Where did it come from? How do you treat it? Should whole neighborhoods be quarantined? If so, how will the people get food and other necessities?
All this had to be figured out and acted on quickly.
And that’s exactly what happened. Medical teams were rushed to Wuhan. Whole new hospitals were built within days.
And sick people were not asked “Do you have health insurance? Who will pay for this?”
The disease was quickly contained. As of this Oct. 19, China, with four times the population of the U.S., has had only 4,634 deaths from the virus, compared to — get this — 224,824 deaths in this country, and still rising. (worldometers.info/coronavirus)
This boils down to the statistic that a person living in the United States is 200 times more likely to die of the coronavirus than a person in China.
What an indictment of this capitalist system!
What makes this huge difference?
China has a centrally planned, socially owned economy, meaning that in an emergency of this kind, all the resources of society can be focused on dealing with the problem. The health of the people, not the profits of a few, becomes the first priority.
If that means commerce in an affected area must be shut down, it happens. If the people need to be quarantined, plans are made to make sure that food and other necessities are safely delivered to them. If they can’t get to their jobs, they won’t get tossed out of their homes or left to starve.
All of that was taken care of when the virus first broke out in Wuhan.
This is inconceivable in a capitalist country — even one as wealthy as the United States.
Right now, millions have been laid off. Small businesses are failing as people hunker down because of the virus. The additional unemployment benefits were terminated in July. The so-called individual “stimulus” payment of $1,200 in April was spent months ago, and neither Trump nor Biden is talking about another one. (It should be noted that more millionaires are actually supporting Biden now than Trump.)
This is capitalism. If you’re a worker, you’re on your own. It becomes clearer every day that the accumulation of so many problems, so much suffering, comes from this profit system.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Oppression breeds resistance. Resistance brings people together to fight for a common cause. And the struggle must go deeper than just trying to alleviate the symptoms. It must get to the source of the sickness itself: capitalism.