Sunday, May 17, 2020

Interpreting the Pandemic Outside the Marxist Lens

After sharing in my Facebook account about the dismissal of the case against Rev. Rodney Howard Browne for unlawful assembly, a friend shared an article from World Socialist Website written by Andre Damon. Reading it, you will see the power of an ideology in shaping a popular narrative such as COVID-19 and economic shutdown. 

What I am going to do is to select paragraphs and sentences that I think need a critical evaluation: 

"The murderous pseudoscience of 'herd immunity' ” 

That’s what you got when you question the official narrative, “murderous”. With such a sensational title, it’s really difficult to argue when emotion dominates.

“Two developments this week have exposed this pseudo-scientific theory as false and dangerous.” 

Then convince these experts . . .

Both camps are claiming that science is on their side. Whose claim is correct?

“If similar figures hold in the United States, with its 330 million people, a hypothetical ‘herd immunity’ would require the sacrifice of nearly two million people.” 

If this is really true, why not throw the same argument against the early forecast based on Dr. Fauci’s science. The last time I checked it was Dr. Fauci and his group that predicted such big number of casualty, which has been invalidated after more or less two months of incoming data from the field.

“These critics point to the fact that the country has suffered a substantially more deadly outbreak than its neighbors, with 361 deaths per million people compared to Denmark (93 per million), Norway (43), Finland (53) and Iceland (29).” 

Both camps argue that life is valuable. It is strawman to say that the advocates of herd immunity value life less than those who support Dr. Fauci’s science. The goal is the same, but the means to achieve such is different. One camp advocates lockdown that complicates the health crisis into socio-psycho-economic one. The other camp advocates personal responsibility affirming that no one knows best the situation of an individual than that person himself. Besides, 361 deaths per million is less than 0.1%. Will you now sacrifice the whole of society for that 0.1%? Will the “true science” of Dr. Fauci now tramples the other sciences?

“Sweden’s wildly irresponsible policies have given ammunition to the far right internationally, which has used it as an example for arguing for a premature reopening of businesses and schools.” 

Notice the language, “irresponsible policies” and “premature reopening”. As I know, Sweden believes in responsible action, but the country would rather put it in the hands of individuals rather than in the hands of policy makers. Isn’t the re-opening over-extended? Are not two months more than enough? And besides, with the lockdown response to COVID-19, we see widespread graft and corruption and abuses of those in power. Are these the kind of results we expect from “responsible policies”?

“In accordance with the ‘brutal economics’ of capitalism, the lives lost to the COVID-19 pandemic are simply the cost of doing business. While trillions of dollars have been spent propping up financial markets, no serious efforts have been made to contain the pandemic. . .” 

So now the true color of the writer appears. His hatred of what he perceived as the current economic system of the world where he called as “capitalism” shaped the way he interprets this current pandemic. The last time I checked no capitalist has the power to inject into the economy such huge trillions of dollars. It was part of the response of government to COVID-19.

“The efforts by the ruling class to counterpose workers’ lives to their livelihoods is an entirely false choice. Both can be defended with the necessary allocation of social resources to stop and eradicate COVID-19 and all other communicable diseases.” 

Finally, he got it right! As I know, it is not the anti-lockdown who counterpose workers’ lives to their livelihoods. From the very early stage of this pandemic, the contra lockdown has been arguing that to see the issue as trade-off between life and livelihood is false. It was the pro-lockdown who wrote such false antinomy.

“But containing the pandemic requires an investment in social infrastructure that the capitalist class is not willing to make. The COVID-19 pandemic has made clear the utter incompatibility of the capitalist system with the preservation of the most basic social right: the right to life.” 

Another strawman. It amazes me how an ideology distorts the way a person interprets current events. How could he write that the capitalists are unwilling to invest in infrastructure to save lives in the midst of economic shutdown? Can capitalists invest in a time when people are held hostage and business activity is restricted? And please, don’t use that argument “right to life” against the capitalists for history tells us that socialism kills more than any other ideology. And besides, population is now more than ten times bigger than it was in the ages preceding capitalism. The mere fact that you are living today is proof that capitalism has succeeded. I think the writer does not understand that the basic features of capitalism are mass production, mass consumption, consumer sovereignty, freedom, economic democracy, and social mobility, the very things that are now prohibited in a lockdown economy. 

One last suggestion for the writer. Why not try to reread current issues outside the lens of Marxism?

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