Capitalism – failing on all fronts

24th April 2021

A man becomes emotional on listening to his fathers demise due to COVID-19 in front of a government run COVID-19 hospital in Kolkata, 22 April

India – covid deaths increase due to market failings

There are moments when examples of the moribund nature of capitalism as a system conspire to dominate the news headlines in a short space of time. The past week has been just such a period, with international, national and local examples of the prejudices and failings of the system jostling for position on the front pages.

The conviction of former police officer, Derek Chauvin, for the murder of George Floyd in the United States has rightly been proclaimed as a victory for the Black Lives Matters Movement in particular but for the wider cause of civil rights and equality in the US in general.

There can be no doubt that Chauvin’s conviction is a victory but the history of the civil rights movement in the United States is littered with false dawns.  Each step forward can just as quickly be followed by two steps back, as the weight of corporate America re-asserts itself and the tactics that keep black and white working class divided are perpetuated.

The United States may be the world’s most advanced nation economically but socially vast swathes of the country remain politically backward.  There is no doubt that there will be reactionary backwaters that see the conviction of Chauvin as a defeat.  However, the real power at the heart of the military industrial complex in the United States relies on divide and rule to maintain its position. Any progress towards unity in opposition to the de facto apartheid system in the US will be seen as a threat.

Building unity around a working class programme to challenge power and privilege in the US will be vital if the step forward Chauvin’s conviction represents is to be sustained.

The systemic failings of capitalism are in evidence elsewhere in the Americas, specifically in Brazil, where an incompetent, pandemic denying government is effectively perpetrating a genocide against its own population.  The so-called B1 covid variant in Brazil has not only pushed covid related deaths in the country close to the world’s biggest pandemic failure, the United States, but is now exporting the variant across South America, with surrounding nations such as Peru recording increases in hospitalisations and death.  

The same is true in India where a country rich in natural and human resources suffers from both a reactionary government and massive social divisions, condemning the poorest to live in conditions of poverty and overcrowding in which the virus thrives.

The Indian government has introduced a policy to liberalise vaccine sales and deregulate prices, without augmenting supply. The central government has failed for a year to do anything to increase vital vaccine supplies. This is a recipe for the exclusion of scores of people who will find it unaffordable to procure the life-saving vaccine. 

Vaccines so far have been free to the states in India. Now, states have to ‘procure’ vaccine from the ‘open market’ without any price regulation. The vaccine providers according to this latest policy, will declare their ‘self-set vaccine price’. This again, is bound to exclude an overwhelming majority of people. 

The idiocy of the market being introduced into dealing with a pandemic can only lead to more unnecessary deaths.  The exponential increase in the death rate in India this week is evidence already of the policy’s failure.

Once beacons of a new wave of developing countries dubbed BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) both Brazil and India are demonstrating the failings of capitalism and the inability of the system to deliver for their people.

In Europe the remarkable rise and fall of the European Super League (ESL) has allowed British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, to divert attention away from the appalling covid death rate to leap on a popular bandwagon and condemn this outrageous monopolisation of the country’s most popular sport.

Monopoly is of course a function of capitalist expansion and the ESL proposal is the logical outcome of the commodification of sport, of which the English Premier League is a prime example.  Fan power and general outrage at the proposal has resulted in the putative ESL backing down but, as the corporations which own football at present look to minimise risk and stifle competition, in every sense, a return in some form is always possible.

Even the ESL debacle however has not allowed Johnson to deflect from the sleaze swamp into which his government continues to sink.  Text exchanges with industrial patriot James Dyson, a Brexit supporter who has moved production offshore to Singapore, reveal Dyson’s concern that his employees may be taxed too much if they redeployed back to the UK to help the national pandemic effort. 

It turns out Dyson could not make the ventilators anyway but the exchange says a lot about his priorities.  It also reinforces what we already know about Johnson and his government, that cronyism, corruption and sleaze are the driving forces behind their every move.  Quite how the Labour leadership is not pressing home this advantage is a scandal.  Should Hartlepool fall to the Tories in the 6th May by-election Kier Starmer should seriously consider standing aside.  His lack of political clout, experience and leadership are becoming an increasing hindrance.

A further failing of capitalism highlighted this week has been the case of the hundreds of post office workers convicted of theft, fraud and false accounting due to the failings of a computer system in local post offices, which suggested they were embezzling funds, when they were not.

To compound the error the Post Office went to great lengths to cover up the error, resulting in many innocent people being imprisoned in a monumental miscarriage of justice.  Campaigners estimate that there may have been 900 prosecutions between 2000 and 2014.  Not surprisingly, in spite of a government enquiry having been launched last year, no-one has ever been held accountable.  The fact that the enquiry is non-statutory, so cannot compel witnesses or evidence is unlikely to help.

The Court of Appeal this week cleared 39 subpostmasters.  Many more still await both justice and compensation.

Justice and compensation are not great mainstays of capitalism and, like the people of the United States, Brazil and India, those suffering injustice and discrimination in Britain will continue to have a fight on their hands.  Working class unity, mobilised around a programme for real progress, in all of these examples is the only guarantee that change can be sustained.

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