This number of Monthly includes three articles dealing with epidemiological and health issues: John Bellamy Foster, Brett Clark and Hannah Holleman, “Capital and the Ecology of Disease”; Vicente Navarro, “What’s Happening in the United States?”; and Jennifer Dohrn and Eleanor Stein, “Epidemic Response: The Legacy of Colonialism”. Taken together, they cover a wide range of issues: economic, ecological, epidemiological and political. But for each of them, the current COVID-19 crisis necessarily looms in the background.
When it comes to capitalism itself, the dominant view is that the COVID-19 crisis is simply an external event, of the “black swan”: something that entered from outside the system, constituting a rare event. , unpredictable and unlikely to repeat. The global capitalist economy, we are told, was fundamentally healthy before this unforeseen exogenous shock hit, and it will return quickly once the SARS-CoV-2 virus is under control.
This received view, however, is incorrect in all respects. From the point of view of Structural One Health, or historical-materialist epidemiology, COVID-19 can be seen as an “ecological flashback” in response to neoliberal globalization and the takeover and transformation of agro -industry in large land areas around the world. The result has been the destruction on an unprecedented scale of entire ecosystems and vast areas of wilderness, primarily in the South, replacing them with large agglomerations of urban populations and massive feedlots containing monocultures of domestic animals, as part of the international diet. This has made it possible to disrupt an incalculable number of species, generating new epidemiological vulnerabilities and creating the conditions conducive to the propagation of pathogens in human populations, transmitted along the circuits of capital. (Alex Liebman, Ivette Perfecto and Rob Wallace, “Who is responsible for the disease in agriculture?», Research body on agroecology and rural economy, October 5, 2020; Rob Wallace, “We need unique structural health, ” Agricultural pathogens, August 3, 2012.)
Seen in this light, COVID-19 is just the most recent and currently most pervasive manifestation of a growing global epidemiological crisis. He finally put to rest what at the end of the twentieth century was referred to as the epidemiological transition, marking the alleged biomedical triumph over infectious diseases in developed economies, coupled with the belief that this would inevitably spread through modernization to developing countries as well. Like various thinkers, including Harvard environmentalist Richard Levins, writing in Monthly in 2000, it is warned, the destruction of global ecologies led to a series of new and re-emerging epidemics, notably Ebola, AIDS (HIV), Legionnaires’ disease and dengue – to which we can now add H1N1, H5N1, MERS, SARS, COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) and others (Levins, “Is capitalism a disease?, ” Monthly 52, no. 4 [September 2000]).
Although the specific pathways of the disease are not known, the global expansion of epidemics was, from an ecosocial perspective, clearly on the horizon, as was the re-emergence of diseases associated with the industrial revolution, such as tuberculosis. (in this case in multidrug-resistant forms), typhoid (enteric fever) and cholera (which re-entered the Americas) – all resulting from conditions of overcrowding, overwork, poor diet, impure water, deteriorating conditions sanitation and poverty at one end of the global value chain. This is the logical result of what Karl Marx called the “absolute general law of capital accumulation,” in which wealth and poverty are increasingly polarized, now operating on a global scale. As socialist economist Hyman Minsky observed in 1975 in his now classic book John Maynard Keynes, the “inflationary conveyor belt” associated with financial monopoly capital, based on a “pattern of perpetual waste and need”, has inevitably resulted in “a deterioration of the biological and social environment” (Hyman Minsky, John Maynard Keynes [New York: Columbia University Press, 1975], 166).
Nor is there any validity to the hegemonic view that the capitalist economy was fundamentally sound before the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic. As Riccardo Bellofiore writes, “just 13 years after the subprime mortgage crisis and the onset of the great recession, the global economy [in 2020] was heading towards a new, deeper global crisis. The fact that the COVID-19 pandemic occurred at this precise moment has obscured the growing economic fragility endemic to a system that has no answer to economic stagnation other than endless and crumbling financial speculation. The early economic actions of the United States and most European states in the face of the coronavirus crisis were therefore primarily aimed at pouring liquidity into the coffers of finance capital on a scale comparable to that of the 2007-2009 crisis – using COVID-19 as an excuse to save banks with imperiled balance sheets and avoid a corporate debt crisis. It was only secondarily that minimal cash rebates were given to workers, not aimed at social protection, but rather at the longer-term perpetuation of a system of exploitation and “indebted consumption” or “The real subsumption of labor into financing and debt”. (Riccardo Bellofiore, “The winters of our discontent and the social economy of production, ” Political economy review, April 14, 2021, from 6 to 7; Jan Toporowski, “The wisdom of property and the politics of the middle class, ” Monthly 62, no. 4 [September 2010]; John Bellamy Foster, R. Jamil Jonna and Brett Clark, “The contagion of capital, ” Monthly 72, no. 8 [January 2021]).
Although the United States (since the advent of the Joe Biden administration) and major European states are throwing much of the neoliberal playbook into the context of the current emergency, and as they seek to boost their economies with massive inflows of money that can bring the economy back to significant short-term growth, this does not represent a decisive turn to the left. Rather, the main objective at the top is simply to consolidate the monopoly finance capital system in its long-term interest – rather than that of the people – in the long run. Such an approach will only intensify the current historical crisis (ecological, epidemiological and economic). Therefore, the world as a whole is again confronted with the harsh alternatives presented by Marx and Frederick Engels at the beginning of The Communist Manifesto: “A revolutionary reconstruction of society as a whole, or … the common ruin of the warring classes” (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto [New York: Monthly Review Press, 1967], 2).
Publication of Monthly Review Press in April 2021 from Feeling the injustice: the life of a lawyer in the battle for change is a major event. United States Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan has said that “Tigar’s tireless effort for justice stretches out toward perfection.” Stephen Sedley (Right Honorable Sir Stephen Sedley, former Lord Justice of Appeal for England and Wales) said that “there may have been few lawyers since Clarence Darrow whose tally of famous causes may match that of Michael Tigar – sailor, teacher, scholar and warrior. “Tigar won his first US Supreme Court trial at age 28, which freed thousands of Vietnam War resisters. He served as legal counsel to Angela Davis, Jamil Abdullah Al- Amin (H. Rap Brown), of the Chicago Eight and leaders of the Black Panther Party. He obtained a judgment against the Chilean regime of Augusto Pinochet for his murders in 1976 of the opponent Orlando Letelier and his colleague Ronnie Moffitt Reading the memories of Tigar battles over fifty years will for some provide an introduction to many of the greatest struggles in United States history over the past half century, while also creating a reminder of the great battles won. and lost to others. As Tigar puts it, “the sense of injustice is awakened by listening and observing.” (480) This book offers an invaluable opportunity not only to feel injustice, but also to experience injustice. feel its opposite: the struggles for a just, egalitarian and sustainable world.