US and World Politics

Capitalism and COVID-19

Global competition or global workers’ cooperation?

By Bonnie Weinstein

Socialism is a world-wide solution to end the devastation and destruction brought about by capitalist competition for the highest profits off the backs of the masses of humanity and the rape and pillage of the world’s natural resources. It can’t be fully realized country-by-country. The transformation to socialism can only be accomplished through the cooperation of all the workers of the world.

Now, we, the masses are struggling through a worldwide pandemic—a virus exacerbated by environmental filth, pollution, mass poverty, racism, lack of healthcare—all caused by capitalism’s need to acquire ever-more profits.

In an April 23, 2020 article by Kristin Toussaint titled, “American Billionaires Have Gotten $280 Billion Richer Since the Start of the COVID-19 Pandemic” 1 that appeared in Fast Company Toussaint stated:

“Though the coronavirus itself may not discriminate in terms of who can be infected, the COVID-19 pandemic is far from a great equalizer. In the same month that 22 million Americans lost their jobs, the American billionaire class’s total wealth increased about ten percent—or $282 billion more than it was at the beginning of March. They now have a combined net worth of $3.229 trillion. The initial stock market crash may have dented some net worth at first—for instance, that of Jeff Bezos, which dropped down to a mere $105 billion on March 12. But his riches have rebounded: As of April 15, his net worth has increased by $25 billion. Eric Yuan, founder and CEO of Zoom, was one of the few to see an increase in net worth even as the markets crashed, and he’s now up $2.58 billion. …These ‘pandemic profiteers,’ as a new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive think tank, calls them, is just one piece of the wealth inequality puzzle in America. In the background is the fact that since 1980, the taxes paid by billionaires, measured as a percentage of their wealth, dropped 79 percent. We’re reading about benevolent billionaires sharing .0001 percent of their wealth with their fellow humans in this crisis, but in fact they’ve been rigging the tax rules to reduce their taxes for decades—money that could have been spent building a better public health infrastructure,” says Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and coauthor of the new report, titled ‘Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers.’”

Yet, in spite of the increased profits being accumulated at the top of the capitalist economic food chain, personal protective equipment (PPE) is in short supply for those who need it the most—the healthcare workers and all workers who are out in the public doing essential work in grocery stores, delivering food from farms, running transit systems, processing food products, etc.

Yet the great capitalist industrial complex is unable to manufacture them. That is being left to charity.

Fashion designers are sewing face masks and scrubs and donating them to healthcare workers. Other wealthy celebrities are donating money and supplies. Colin Kaepernick, the former NFL quarterback, donated $100,000, saying that communities of color “are being disproportionately devastated by COVID-19 because of hundreds of years of structural racism.”2

Capitalism’s ineptitude

Instead of scientists coming together across the globe to cooperate in a vast effort to fight this pandemic—by sharing information and collaborating to find new treatments and cures—the capitalist corporations in each country are in competition with each other to control the profits from anything helpful they may come up with in isolation from each other.

In an April 10, 2020 article by Peter S. Goodman, Katie Thomas, Sui-Lee Wee and Jeffrey Gettleman titled “A New Front for Nationalism: The Global Battle Against a Virus:”3

“Every country needs the same lifesaving tools. But a zero-sum mind-set among world leaders is jeopardizing access for all. Now, just as the world requires collaboration to defeat the coronavirus—scientists joining forces across borders to create vaccines, and manufacturers coordinating to deliver critical supplies—national interests are winning out. This time, the contest is over far more than which countries will make iPads or even advanced jets. This is a battle for supremacy over products that may determine who lives and who dies. …‘The parties with the deepest pockets will secure these vaccines and medicines, and essentially, much of the developing world will be entirely out of the picture,’ said Simon J. Evenett, an expert on international trade who started the University of St. Gallen project. ‘We will have rationing by price. It will be brutal.’”

Complicating the already inefficient competitive capitalist marketplace, manufacturers across the globe have adopted a “just-in-time” manufacturing model developed by Japan during the post-World War II era:

“They built smaller factories, which focused on quickly turning small amounts of raw materials into small amounts of physical products. Processing smaller batches allowed the manufacturers to reduce financial risk, while slowing generating sustainable levels of working capital. The system that they used came to be known as just in time manufacturing, popularized in Western media as the Toyota Production System.”4

What this means during this pandemic is that the stockpiles of PPE, food, toilet paper, sanitary cleaners and wipes are in very short supply. Instead, manufacturers have been producing only what they can immediately sell in the marketplace for a steep profit, leaving no stockpiles in storage in case such emergencies as this pandemic arise.

So, in the wealthiest nations of the world, there are not enough necessary emergency supplies of anything to go around so that only those with the most money get the supplies.

The chaos of capitalism
and their wars

So, why aren’t the money hoarders being forced to suffer along with the rest of us—those who have more money than they and their families can spend in their entire lifetimes? Why are they allowed to keep all that wealth created by the workers who were employed in their factories, businesses, industries and who are now broke and unemployed?

Why are the wealthy immune to economic catastrophe, homelessness, hunger and lack of healthcare? And why can’t the “greatest and wealthiest nation on earth” supply protective equipment to our medical staff?

Under capitalism this virus is serving as austerity on steroids for the masses and even more accumulation of wealth for those on top of the money chain.

Meanwhile, the U.S. war industries continue to thrive bringing death and destruction all over the world while using up vast resources that could be used to save the world instead of destroying it.

The power of the working class

This pandemic has proved that the working class has the power to take control of production and distribution—and that it’s the capitalist system itself that is standing in our way. (This simple but profound truth was pointed out to me by my youngest son, Johnny Gould,5 during a casual conversation while watching the evening news and sheltering in place. It struck me like a bolt of lightening!) Tens-of-millions of laid-off workers have demonstrated that the capitalist class is bankrupt without them when it comes to solving even the simplest tasks of producing enough PPE for our health workers let alone, coming up with treatments and cures for this current health catastrophe.

It’s workers who know how to produce with efficiency if we are allowed to do so without having to first insure fat profits for the bosses. It’s workers who know how to distribute goods and services. It’s workers who know how to cooperate and function in hospitals. (How more efficient could our healthcare facilities be if the doctors, nurses and staff didn’t have to make sure every medical procedure, every medicine administered, every bedding and bedpan changed, is billed to the proper agency.) Half their time is making sure the billing is done thoroughly!

It’s workers who know how to build factories, how to run hospitals and mass transportation, how to plant, produce and distribute food and services.

Could you imagine Trump, Biden or Nancy Pelosi working in the fields of California’s farmland? Or in a chicken processing plant?

It’s we, the working class, that knows how to accomplish these things. We have no need for the capitalist class—they are entirely superfluous to the production of anything. They do nothing but hire workers to do the work for them—including the intellectual and scientific work. All they do is hoard the wealth workers produce and then take credit for the scientific breakthroughs workers discover.

They are helpless without us. And that is our power!

This pandemic has proven that workers are the essential force necessary for solving the problems of the world—inequality, injustice, war, environmental destruction, pandemics—all caused or weaponized by the chaos of the capitalist profit motive that puts their personal profits above all else.

It will be a great day when production is based on the needs of all, and not the obscene profits for the tiny few—democratic, cooperative production and distribution based upon freedom, equality, and justice for all.

That’s what a socialist society can do for all of us. Socialism is our only hope for the future. It can’t be voted in. It must be built from the bottom up by the entire working class joining together to change the world for the better—because only we have the power and know-how to do it. We have nothing to lose but our chains and a world to gain.




4 “What is Just-in-Time Manufacturing”

5 Follow @tandino415 on Instagram