Issue 37: Pandemic Politics
May 22, 2020 11:39 AM   Subscribe

Jacobin's latest issue: "Our message is simple: the coronavirus has scattered the pieces on the geopolitical chessboard, revealing the fragility of just-in-time global production. Getting back to normal is the last thing we need."

Meagan Day - No Act of God:
When the world comes crashing down, it suits the ruling class to allow the public to believe that the primary cause of the collapse was something organic and intractable — God, the weather, natural fluctuations in the market, the unique savagery of a virus, the incomprehensible perversity of a foreign culture. Displacing responsibility onto abstractions allows the powerful to evade criticism for creating and maintaining such an unstable state of affairs.

The way the coronavirus pandemic in the United States has been presented is a case in point. COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that causes fever, fatigue, and a dry cough. In severe cases, it causes respiratory distress. In some cases, it causes death. But the coronavirus can’t accurately be said to have caused the upheaval happening all around us.
Jack Chadwick - When the “Unskilled” Become “Essential”:
The consensus forming in the columns of papers like the New York Times expects this moment will cast a shadow darker than the Great Depression — the crisis that set in motion the gloomy events that Victor Serge called “the midnight of the century.” Yet that period of economic collapse and world war also emboldened a generation of socialists, forcing them to think in radical new ways.

Born in 1903, the economist Joan Robinson was one of the socialists who took crisis as an opportunity to better understand capitalism. She insisted that such moments could dispense insights in political economy faster than the average Capital reading group — even if, perhaps, reaching similar conclusions. Robinson’s solution was to “take the back of an envelope and work it out.” Today, like in her day, we need to sketch out the transformations unfolding in front of us — the first step to finding a route from this crisis to the world we wish to see.
Nicole Aschoff - Is This the End of Neoliberal Globalization?:
In just a few months, the pandemic has caused global circuits of people and goods to collapse. Foreign nationals are banned in many countries, and global shipping is in chaos as first supply and then demand have collapsed. Spending in retail, tourism, and entertainment has nosedived, and a growing number of developing

countries are on the brink of “disorderly default.” Chief economists at the International Monetary Fund say that while up-to-date data isn’t available, they’re confident a global recession has already begun.

The failure of just-in-time global trade for health care provision is even more grim. Countries and businesses that relied on the global market for essential medical supplies, most of them provided by China, have found themselves in dire straits. In the United States, doctors are using garbage bags, scuba gear, and takeout containers as personal protective equipment, and they’re being forced to decide who lives and who dies because hospitals don’t have enough ventilators.
Leigh Phillips - The Market Is Leaving Us Unprepared for a Pandemic
In 2018, the financial giant Goldman Sachs issued a report that asked, “Is curing patients a sustainable business model?” The analyst thought that Gilead Sciences’ treatment for hepatitis C, which produced cure rates in excess of 90 percent, offered a cautionary tale. While US sales hit as much as $12.5 billion in 2015, they slid to a mere $4 billion three years later because its “hepatitis C franchise has gradually exhausted the available pool of treatable patients.” Infectious diseases, in particular, pose a challenge to profitability because “curing existing patients also decreases the number of carriers able to transmit the virus to new patients.” Cancer, thank god, the report concluded, does not pose this problem (the unsaid corollary, of course, being that we damn well better not find a cure for cancer).

As odious as all this appears, the problem, therefore, is not immorality or evil, as we often hear, but amorality. The market can only ever provide what is profitable. It is utterly indifferent to human needs.
Mike Beggs & Beck Pearse - Viral Socialism Now!:
The pandemic has underlined our interdependence — in addition to deep inequalities and the neglect of public provisioning for our collective needs. We will hear a lot more in the coming months about sharing the economic burden of the pandemic. But what does “sharing” mean in societies where the status quo was starkly unequal?

We need to put forward proactive collective claims — in workplaces, households, and civil society — about what fair distribution of costs and social provisioning in the pandemic, and beyond, must involve. The basic principles should be:

  • Where incomes must take a hit, higher incomes should do so first. Specifically, income from propertied wealth and executive pay should be cut well before incomes from wage earners.
  • No workers (paid or unpaid) should have to bear unacceptable risk or degraded conditions.
  • People without formal employment need a basic income defined according to need.
  • New public investment in health and social service institutions is urgent and must guarantee the safety, security, enhanced conditions, and pay of currently precarious and undervalued workers.
  • In many societies, nationalizing key parts of the food supply chain and other essential services will be necessary to ensure that no one goes hungry or without energy and shelter, nor dies providing these basic goods.
  • The public costs created by this pandemic should not be a debt borne by this or future generations of workers.
  • ---

    Special bonus content from more than 3,000 researchers at 600 universities around the world:
    Life After COVID-19: Decommodify Work, Democratise the Workplace

    In a joint op-ed, leading academics around the world say we need to heed the lessons of the coronavirus crisis and rewrite the rules of our economic systems in order to create a more democratic and sustainable society.
    posted by Ouverture (2 comments total)

    This post was deleted for the following reason: It looks like these are available to subscribers only? -- LobsterMitten

    A related piece on the importance of systemic public interventions compared to distributed charities:

    Food Banks Get The Love, But SNAP Does More To Fight Hunger
    This is what makes SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, so effective. Last year, 35 million people received $55 billion in SNAP benefits, down from a peak of 47 million people and $76 billion in 2013. The program, which falls under the aegis of the USDA, delivers roughly nine times more food to people than the entire Feeding America network, which includes food banks.

    Jess Powers, who's worked with several food assistance programs, says that this method — transferring money, rather than bags of produce — is better in a lot of ways. For one thing, she says, "it's just more efficient." SNAP recipients simply pay for groceries using an electronic benefits card. Also, people have more freedom to buy what they need, and the money they spend helps local businesses.
    posted by Ouverture at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2020

    Lobby for a national toilet paper strategic reserve now!
    posted by sammyo at 11:55 AM on May 22, 2020

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