How to and how not to deal with a pandemic, COVID-19 and US imperialism.

Evan Richards

In recent months the COVID-19 virus has taken the world by storm. The virus has also tested every country it has touched. It has revealed just how murderous the bourgeoisie is, Engels coined the term ‘social murder’, claiming that “when [capitalists] force workers in a condition that knowingly leads to death, it should be called what it is: Murder.” As Mao said capitalism is “profits in command”, we Marxists know that no matter how irrational it may seem to sacrifice however many thousands of lives for profit it is rational for certain class interests. This has become only more apparent with the crisis and it will require the strongest and most organised of reactions based on community and collectivism to build on from the perpetual crisis of capitalism.

The Blame Game

This pandemic has revealed who is more equipped to deal with such an outbreak, and how much more concerned the West is with criticising China than actually acting themselves. Many have decided to question China and ramp up Sinophobia instead of acting to help, one article in the Wall Street Journal was titled, “China is the real sick man of Asia” and Trump’s persistence on calling itthe “Chinese virus” along with the limitation of Chinese citizens who can work in the United States has incited over 650 racist acts against Asians in the US over the past months (NBC News 26/03/20). China responded firmly with expelling US journalists, “[Journalists] will not be allowed to continue working as journalists in the People’s Republic of China, including its Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions.” Trading a blow to the bourgeoise media and it’s constant manufacturing of consent for the US Empire.

For the bourgeoisie, freedom of the press meant freedom for the rich to publish and for the capitalists to control the newspapers, a practice which in all countries, including even the freest, produced a corrupt press.” -Lenin, ‘Draft Resolution on Freedom of The Press’

The shameless Sinophobia was also criticised by the World Health Organisation, “Viruses know no borders and they don’t care about your ethnicity, the colour of your skin or how much money you have in the bank, so it’s really important we be careful in the language we use lest it lead to the profiling of individuals associated with the virus”. China has also been accused of lying about the number of citizens killed by the virus, Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state who once said that “Jesus Christ as our saviour is truly the only solution for our world” has called on China to be more transparent on its figures and has publicly accused them of withholding information which could be crucial in stopping the spread of Covid-19. Senator Ben Sasse, a Nebraska Republican, said most disturbingly, “Without commenting on any classified information, this much is painfully obvious: The Chinese Communist Party has lied, is lying, and will continue to lie about coronavirus to protect the regime.”

In response China stated, “The relevant Chinese government departments have released relevant information in a timely manner every day… We have said many times that to stigmatise, blame and shift blame to others cannot make up for lost time. Continued lying will only waste more time and continue more loss of life”. So whilst the American people are suffering, whilst a record 3.3 million file for unemployment (Guardian, 26/03/20), whilst doctors are fired for speaking up about a lack of PPE (Bloomberg, 31/03/20), whilst workers are put at risk by their bosses (Gothamist, 24/03/20), the US government’s response is to blame China.

The Trump administration also dismissed their pandemic response team in 2018 and even lists patients as consumers, the US capitalist driven system is not prepared, and it cannot be prepared.

On the other hand, China has shown “unprecedented” steps in controlling COVID-19 according to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director-General of the W.H.O, “I have never seen for myself this kind of mobilization,” he noted. “China is actually setting a new standard for outbreak response.”

Another attack from the West’s endless stream of propaganda is a manufactured story of Dr. Li Wenliang, a supposed ‘whistle-blower’ against the Chinese ‘regime’. In actuality, Wenliang was no such whistle-blower. He did not notify any public health organ; he did not notify hospital authorities and he did not warn the public of a cover up or danger. Not only had the “whistle” already been blown on December 29th by others like Dr. Zhang Jixian (who was recognised and commended by the government).

Wenliang also made the wrong claim initially that it was SARS and not the new COVID-19. Given the outbreak of SARS that had occurred in 2003 and different nature of it compared to the highly contagious Coronavirus the government understandably tried to reduce panic, he was called in, talked to and signed a document not to spread rumours. He was not arrested as was frequently propagated in bourgeoise media and he was not punished. Dr. Li also was no expert, he was not familiar with the situation, he was not treating affected patients, and had no expertise to make any such claims. It was also merely one day after Weilang wrote in a private WeChat group that the government confirmed the discovery of the Coronavirus. Dr. Li was a member of the CCP, a Communist who supported the policies in Hong Kong, after his death the government apologised publicly to Dr. Li and his family. Based on the evidence and facts, the government did not try to silence or cover up a mistake in fear of embarrassment and the government did not silence a whistle-blower who had tried to warn the public early on about the virus. Western media continues to push Asiatic despotism to the extreme playing on old cold war idiosyncrasies of red communist authoritarian dictatorships who only hunger for power, instead of the truth of wanting the power to end hunger. They complain about the lack of free speech in China, as the Guardian put it “If China valued free speech, there would be no coronavirus crisis”, which is a gross overlook of the evidence at hand that contradicts such a claim.

The West continues to blame China for their “slow” response, yet they cannot take responsibility for the lack of action in their own countries. This is because taking responsibility would mean reflecting on the political economy of their own nations and the bankers of Wall Street and London who are keeping the third world poor and the oil cartels who terrorise and plunder the Middle East are determined at great costs to prevent this from happening. For this story to make any sense to the public, the media must play on racist orientalist tropes, they must have the preconceived notion that the Chinese government is innately bad and the people of China are either “brainwashed” if they support the government or “oppressed” in need of international sanctions if they disagree. To give any more humanity to Chinese people would mean the bourgeoise media would have to treat this polemic with rationality and logic resulting in them having to ask basic questions for why China would create, purposefully, the conditions for a major pandemic. There is no rationality for the CCP to do so and the evidence proves the opposite has happened but for the Guardian or New York Times writers, giving humanity or rationality to non-Western countries is often a far-fetched challenge.

The ruling classes and bourgeoisie have also criticised China for being “draconian” and “harsh” in its response despite it also being “slow” in the first place. It seems rationally preventing panic but also taking action are both unacceptable. The blame game is one sided, whilst China takes control and has even announced to hold a national day of mourning for the victims of COVID-19 on April 4th the US is seen giving $1.5 trillion to bail out private banks. The stark differences on societies where profits are in command and where they are not have been tested by COVID-19 and have spelled out the necessity to build socialism in the 21st century.

Economic Terrorism

One of the most disturbing of reactions to the virus has been the US government’s decision to increase crippling sanctions on Iran that have hit the poorest areas. The definition of terrorism is “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims.” US sanctions hit civilians only and never harm those in power and are illegal.

In an act of humanity, eight countries demanded the lifting of U.S. killer sanctions. China, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Cuba, Iran, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Russia and Syria have all addressed a letter to U.N to end the sanctions. The US had not long before voted on the 5th November ‘no’ to an end on sanctions with Israel and Brazil whilst Ukraine and Colombia abstained. The sanctions are killing Iranians, they prevent Iran from selling their oil and accessing international markets. Medical goods may be exempt from the sanctions, but Iran has no way to purchase them without access to international banks. The difficulties facing Iran, under such extreme financial pressures fighting a virus that has taken over 3,400 lives are hard to imagine. The US on the other hand, which is the wealthiest country in the history of the world with access to every market is now experiencing shortages.

Not everyone outside of the West is for revoking the sanctions, the White Helmets of Syria, a front for Al Nusra and Jihadist groups said in a statement, “The Syrian Regime has launched a political and media campaign calling for the lifting of economic sanctions against it… Syrian Civil Defence (White Helmets) … are astounded by these demands and allegations and warn the international community and the key countries of influence against entertaining such demands”. Often called “life-savers”, the Western media has fallen silent on such statements. Nonetheless picking up on “The pleas and the screams of Syrian defectors who appeal for stronger U.S. measures” (Reuters 11/03/20)In the meantime, Iran has turned its most luxurious shopping centre into an emergency hospital with 3,000 beds to treat patients as the US continues to escalate its criminal and illegal sanctions.

The Myth of European Solidarity

Germany, the kingpin of the EU, seized 830,000 masks sent from China to Italy to help those who needed it, they have also banned the export of equipment causing extreme contentions with their neighbours. The seizing of 240,000 masks at the border with Switzerland also reinforces the myth of European solidarity, and again, whilst those on the far-right capitalise on the legitimate growth of Euroscepticism amongst the working class the ‘left’ is left lacking. Not a single EU country responded to Italian plea for help with the coronavirus, Italian ambassador to the EU, Maurizio Massari told Politico, “unfortunately, not a single EU country responded to the Commission’s call. Only China responded bilaterally. Certainly, this is not a good sign of European solidarity.” In the words of Lenin, “A United States of Europe, under capitalism, is either impossible or reactionary.”

Socialism in Action

On the other hand, those who prioritise people over profit, have shown the necessity of socialism to the world. Bolivarian socialism and the foreign policy of Maduro has kept Venezuela from being exploited by imperialism. Venezuela’s actions in this crisis have resulted in 153 infected people, with 7 deaths. Compared to the rest of Latin America that has not fared so well. Brazil has had 9,244 cases with 366 deaths; Ecuador 3,368 and 145; Chile 3,737 and 22; Peru 1,595 and 61; Mexico 1,688 and 60 with Colombia having 1,267 and 25.

This has been able to occur through true international solidarity, China sent coronavirus diagnostic kits that will allow 320,000 Venezuelans to be tested with a team of experts and supplies. Cuba has sent 130 doctors and medical supplies and even Russia sent equipment and support. Meanwhile the richest country in the history of the world is consistent in its economic terrorism and retains sanctions on the legitimate Venezuelan government. To demonstrate the sheer disgraceful nature of the US, they have not even responded to the Maduro administration’s request to allow the national airline of Venezuela travel under sanctions, to fly the Venezuelans stranded in the United States back to Caracas. Keeping in mind that COVID-19 treatment can cost “consumers” up to $35,000.

It is not just international solidarity that has helped Venezuela cope either, the government has suspended all rent and credit payments for all citizens and has banned companies from firing employees, Maduro also urged government officials to work 24 hours to attend to the situation of the coronavirus and guarantee safety to the population. “Let us be the greatest example of social discipline, organization, medical scientific quality, cooperation to solve all these situations,” said the Bolivarian leader in a plea for humanity with the far-right opposition in fear that they will use this opportunity to continue to terrorise the working people of Venezuela. North Korea, Laos, Vietnam and especially Cuba have all taken actions that prioritise saving lives over profit. For true international solidarity, for anti-imperialism, peace, jobs and Socialism we must demand that the needs of humanity are prioritised.

Evan Richards