It is a risky thing to start analysing the COVID stats and coming up with some conclusions at this still early stage of the pandemic. It is even riskier for an economist to delve into areas beyond his or her supposed expertise. But after looking at myriads of articles, heaps of data and lots of presentations by people who ought to know what they are talking about, I cannot resist putting my dollar on the table.
The first point that I want to make is on the severity of the COVID-19 virus. On any reasonable estimate of the mortality rate, assuming no containment measures, then we could expect up to 60% of the population on average to be infected before the virus wanes with so-called ‘herd immunity’. The mortality rate is very difficult to be clear about, varying from the 3-4% that the World Health Organisation (WHO) reckons based on existing cases, down to some local studies that put the rate at more like 0.3-0.4% on extrapolating the number of infections from mass testing. Even that rate would be three to four time the average annual influenza mortality rate.
Anyway, if I make an arbitrary rate of 1% of the population- an estimate that many epidiemologists seem to latch onto, then in a global population of 7.8bn, and given a 60% ‘herd immunity’ level, that would mean about 45m deaths globally. Given that there are on average about 57m deaths a year, an uncontained virus would have raised 2020’s death rate by 80%. For individual countries, that increase would vary between 65% to double. Even if the (uncontained) mortality rate turns out be half that, then over 20m people would die, or some 40% more than usual.
But the Malthusian argument could then be presented. As something like 70-80% of these deaths would be for those 70 years and over and there are negligible deaths among those under 40 years, the impact of the virus does not matter.
Indeed, some in financial circles argue that the virus is ‘getting rid’ of the old and the sick who are mostly unproductive in generating value and profit. After the pandemic is over, the world will be ‘leaner and fitter’ and able to expand more ‘productively’.
Marx and Engels were vehement in their condemnation of Malthus’ ‘survival of the fittest’ theory; Engels calling it “this vile, infamous theory, this hideous blasphemy against nature and mankind”. But they did not condemn it on anti-humane grounds only, but also that Malthus was wrong economically too. Productivity growth does not depend on keeping the population down but on increasing the productive forces and on the march of science and technology. It is not an issue of overpopulation but one of inequality and poverty bred by capitalist accumulation and appropriation of value created by the power of labour.
That is the key reason for attempting to contain COVID-19; to save lives that can be saved. The other reason is that if the pandemic was allowed to spread unchecked, health systems would be overwhelmed, disrupting their ability to deal with existing patients and people with other illnesses; and probably causing an increase in such secondary mortality rates (and this time in younger fitter people too). Most governments on the globe are not in a position of opting for Malthus and ignoring public pressure if the bodies of loved, old or sick, pile up. If they did, they would not survive.
So containment of the virus was necessary. But containment can mean many things. It can mean from total lockdown of all economic and social movement and activity to more relaxed measures, down to simply testing everybody for the virus, isolating and quarantining those infected and shielding the old, while hospitalising those with severe conditions. If a country had full testing facilities and staff to do ‘contact and trace’ and isolation; along with sufficient protective equipment, hospital beds including ICUs), then containment along these lines would work – without significant lockdown of the economy.
But nearly all countries were not prepared or able to provide the facilities and resources to do that. Germany has come close and I shall show how successful that has been in a moment. South Korea also maybe. But in both countries, there has also been some important social and economic ‘lockdowns’. Every other country with major infections has been forced to into a major lockdown of movement and isolation for weeks in order to contain the pandemic. China is the most exceptional example of a high level lockdown in one large province. New Zealand applied a high level lockdown from day one and reduced deaths to the bare minimum.
Here is an estimate of the varying degrees of lockdown adopted by countries.
If you look at the average lines, you can see that on the Google mobility trend, Spain has delievered a 66% reduction in economic and social activity, while in Sweden it has been only 6%.
Has containment worked? It certainly has. And here I am entering the risky territory of trying to measure the success of containment. As above, I estimate that without any containment, there would have been about 45m deaths from COVID-19 in 2020. But with containment, and partly using the forecast estimates of the Institute for Health Metric and Evaluation (IHME), I reckon that death toll will have been reduced to “just” 250-300,000.
Here are my estimates for various countries comparing the ‘no containment’ deaths with forecast accumulated deaths after containment.
As you can see, containment will enable countries to reduce the potential uncontained mortality rate by 90-99%! As a result, if sustained, containment will curb extra mortality above the normal annual average to less than 1%.
So containment works. But as it has been achieved mostly by drastic lockdowns, it is only at the cost of pushing the world economy off a cliff into a deep slump in production, jobs, investment – to be followed by a very slow recovery over years if containment has to be maintained at extreme levels to curb a re-occurrence of the pandemic, and/or until an effective vaccine can be produced along with mass testing and isolation methods.
Could the lockdowns have been avoided? Well, as I said, I think if there had been facilities and staff for mass testing, contact and trace; enough hospital resources and a vaccine, lockdowns would not have been necessary. Even poor countries have had success with these methods – see ‘Communist’ Kerala.
Are the extreme lockdowns imposed by China and some other countries unnecessary? The Swedish authorities have opted to what might be called ‘lockdown-lite’, with restrictions only on mass gatherings and relying voluntary social isolation. Is this working as well as draconian lockdowns in other countries?
Well, the evidence of potential accumulated deaths as projected by IHME for various countries suggests not.
Sweden is heading for one of the highest death rates in the world, only likely to be beaten by Belgium among the larger countries. And compared to its Scandinavian neighbours (where restrictions are nearly double that of Sweden’s – see the mobility graph above), the Swedish mortality rate will be some two or three times greater. It seems that the Swedish authorities have failed to protect the old, as the privatised residential homes have been engulfed with infections, just as they have been elsewhere.
But Belgium has a lockdown and will have a heavier mortality rate than Sweden, while Germany will do way better than countries like Spain and Italy where there are much more strict lockdowns. What that suggests is that containment does not just depend on the level of restrictions and lockdown, but also on the level of hospital facilities and testing.
Germany’s surplus of hospital beds is much higher than in the rest of Europe.
And it is testing much more, if at still a low rate.
Sweden and Belgium have fewer beds and are doing less testing.
The Swedish ‘lockdown lite’ means more deaths per capita. But the argument for it is that eventually the Swedish population will achieve ‘herd immunity’ and the economy can continue in the meantime without being shut down. The first proposition is full of uncertainty: how will the authorities know that they have achieved such immunity? The second proposition is clearly false. No economy is an island. Even if the Swedish economy continues to be open for business, where are its exports going to when much of the rest of the world is locked down?
So my tentative conclusions are that:
- COVID-19 has a much higher mortality rate than flu
- Without containment it would have increased the annual mortality rates of most countries by over 80%
- Containment has worked in driving down potential deaths from millions to thousands
- Because most governments were unprepared and lacked sufficient healthcare facilities, they were forced into varying degrees of lockdowns, bringing the world economy to a standstill
- The more severe the lockdown and the more health facilities available means generally that there will be fewer deaths
- The ‘lockdown lite’ approach risks more deaths without offering a stronger economy as a trade-off.
99 thoughts on “COVID-19 and containment”
The big problem with a severe lockdown is that it’s difficult to sustain the measure for a longer period. According to reports there are more and more people who are defying the lockdown in Italy. And how many deaths will come from the economical depression that now seem inevitable? A longer lockdown will also give fuel to rightwingpopulism( in Sweden, with its lockdown-lite the opposite has occured). A vaccine against Covis-19 is probably at least a year away from being available. Can we keep countries on severe lockdown for a year or more? My tentavive conclusion is that lockdown-lite( social distancing, protect the elderly) is the best way forward.
It might be for the reasons you say but not because it will save more lives. It’s a trade off
Quite right. But also, the idea of a vaccine is a bit of a red herring. Although COVID19 is a new strain of coronavirus, coronaviruses themslves are not at all new. The common cold is frequently caused by coronaviruses, and research done some years ago based in Glasgow, found that every year about 8-14% of all flu-like diseases were caused by coronavirus, or that those who had such symptoms also were infected with coronavirus.
In fact, although comparisons are often made between coronavirus and flu, the more appropriate comparison is with the common cold. That is why a vaccine becomes more of a problem. With flu the annual flu jab comprises 3 different strains – for those under 65 – of the most likely flu viruses circulating that year. It includes 4 if you get the jab for those over 65. But, there are no vaccines for the common cold, because the potential number of viruses that could cause it in any year is too great, or at least the different strains of those viruses is too great to be able to effectively protect against it.
COVID19 is simply the name given to the dominant strain of coronavirus that is causing problems currently, and which arose in 2019. But, the whole point is that viruses as living organisms mutate and evolve. You could have an effective vaccine for COVID19 put into use, but next year, it will be COVID20 that has evolved and is in circulation, so that the COVID19 vaccine may be useless as protection against it.
In any war when you are on the defensive because you entered it poorly equipped, buying time is the only option. This is what the capitalist class has done in most countries. Time to build capacity, time to investigate the best interventions, and finally time to discover an inoculation or anti-dote. But buying time is not a solution in itself. There is no guarantee that resources and remedies will be forthcoming. Let us be clear. The virus is too deeply entrenched in the human race. It will not burn itself out especially as there will be reservoirs of infection in all the impoverished areas around the world. In the end, one way or the other, either through contagion or inoculation herd immunity will be achieved.
And of course time can turn into its opposite. (I love dialectical thinking). The cure can be worse than the disease if the global economy continues to be disrupted, if hundreds of millions of jobs are lost and hunger stalks the land.
Michael, I think a better way of describing this plague is to use the word Eugenic, because unlike Spanish flu, as you have indicated above, it targets those who cost capital profits, rather than produce profits. In all ways, this plague has been visited upon a society and a world made sick by Capital, and kept sick by its pharmaceutical industry which has exploited chronic illness. Our slogan should be “Capitalism is making us sick, revolution will heal us”. This should be our focus as opposed to the right who are beginning to divert anger by blaming a reckless China. The drums of war are beginning to beat louder. We need to amplify the Cymbal sound of insurrection to drown them out. This virus has shown, graphically, that the capitalist class is unfit to be the ruling class.
Yes I agree
All very well, but like all such millennialist calls for “Socialism Is The Answer” or “Revolution Now”, it takes the working class forward not one jot in practical terms!
And, in fact, its totally facile and meaningless. Revolution didn’t save the Bolsheviks and Russian workers and peasants from plague, famine and pestilence. On the contrary, if anything, in the immediate term it inflicted all those things upon it.
These kinds of subjectivism and appeals for some utopia based upon workers suddenly having their eye opened by clever slogans or demands for things that those who raise them think the workers must never before have thought of as solutions, remind me of the schemas dreamt up by the Narodniks in Russia that their subjectivist sociology led them to believe could be implemented purely on the basis of convincing argument, as against Lenin’s argument that the
“Narodniks are incapable of understanding how one can fight capitalism by speeding up its development, and not by “holding it up,” not by pulling it back, but by pushing it forward, not in reactionary, but in progressive fashion.”
(The Economic Content of Narodism, Chapter 1)
And, that the attitude of Marxists, therefore, is not some utopian, reactionary dreaming of schemas for the future based upon raising vague demands that have not grounding in current reality, but is to do the hard slog of basing yourself on the actually existing working-class, and its antagonistic contradiction to capital, not by reactionary demands to “hold back” its development as the “anti-capitalists” and “anti-imperialists” demand in similar vein to the Narodniks, but by driving it forward, on the basis of advancing the revolutionary content of that forward movement as represented by he interests of workers.
Its hard to see how such interest is in any way presented by supporting demands to close down production itself, returning society to some pre-industrial age, rather than presenting alternative working-class solutions based on protecting the actually at risk groups, and demanding that production continue on the basis of extended workers’ rights in each workplace, founded upon workers control and inspection, and so on.
Airy-fairy demands for revolution now, are simply an abstention from the current struggle, in much the same way that the Narodniks themselves went AWOL from that struggle.
We do not want to shut down production itself, but end the capitalist mode of production that has been in overshoot since 1970. This crisis has exposed class antagonisms — usually hidden – to just about everyone and revealed the true cost of not confronting a centrist/right-wing political regime in any meaningful way. The problems will not go away if we go backward to that regime but get worse and more frequent.
I don’t know what “overshoot since 1970) is supposed to mean, but simply wanting end the capitalist mode of production is the kind of pious wish that Lenin describes above. Marxists base themselves on materialism on pushing forward social development, and focusing on the revolutionary content of that forward movement as represented by the consequent development of the working-class and labour movement.
Why you think the class antagonisms are usually hidden I don’t know, but the whole point of a Marxist perspective is that it is the forward movement and continued social development that sharpens those class antagonism and brings them to a point where they can only be resolved by a revolutionary reversal.
The Sismondist, Narodnik, “anti-capitalist” and “anti-imperialist” approach of trying to “hold back” such development is Utopian and thereby as Marx and Lenin sets out reactionary, as is its corollary, the endless catastrophism that seeks salvation in the idea that capitalism might suffer some catastrophe that will bring it to a halt. One good thing from this crisis is it should have made it clear once and for all that economic crises can arise for reasons other than the supposed Law of the Tendency For The rate of Profit to Fall, which Marx never cited as having such a role in any case. Indeed, as Lenin sets out, the Narodniks were also characterised by this same reactionary view, whereby they continually proclaimed that capitalism could not develop beyond a certain point in Russia, and Krasin sought to justify this false argument himself on the basis of that same law. Its complete tosh as Lenin sets out.
In ecological terms, “overshoot” refers to when the rate of consumption of a population exeeds the rate of regeneration of its ecosystem. If, for any reason, the total consumption by a population outstrips the regenerative rate of the ecosystem, the population goes into “ecological debt” and will eventually collapse to a size supported by the ecosystem’s carrying capacity. The global human (capitalist) economy has been exceeding earth’s yearly carrying capacity since around 1970, increasing yearly (except during recessions) to where it’s now conservatively outstripping earth’s carrying capacity by about 70% according to Global Footprint Network (https://data.footprintnetwork.org) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earth_Overshoot_Day) . But, this abstraction hides some gory details…
To break it down scientifically, and if you don’t mind an informal presentation, check out Dr. Richard Nolthenius’s powerpoints/pdfs covering the thermodynamics modern civilization, which includes other models developed by Tim Garett (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garrett_relation) and others relating GDP, inflation, and energy: “The Thermodynamics of Civilization” (https://www.cabrillo.edu/~rnolthenius/Apowers/A7-K43-Garrett.pdf). All of his pdfs can be viewed here: https://www.cabrillo.edu/~rnolthenius/astro7/A7PowerIndex.html. The empirical record shows that while capitalism improves human productivity incidental to its drive to increase the rate of exploitation, increasing energy efficiency, the subsequent expansion of capital will overcome those efficiency gains. This perpetuates a cycle leading to overshoot and collapse. Because a reduction in biocapacity equates to less natural capital, social development under capitalism reached a peak sometime before global overshoot if we include evolutionary future in that definition.
The battle now is to realize it’s the capitalist system that stands in the way of social development. I don’t think the Narodnik example applies today because the material conditions, science, and observations have advanced a century. Modern analysis should reflect that.
“The global human (capitalist) economy has been exceeding earth’s yearly carrying capacity since around 1970, increasing yearly (except during recessions) to where it’s now conservatively outstripping earth’s carrying capacity by about 70% according to Global Footprint Network.”
But, this modern day Malthusianism is just simply wrong. For example, I pointed out some time ago, that in the 1950’s, Colin Clarke had shown that without adding any additional agricultural land, but simply by using the same methods of production as were used in Denmark – which was not the most technologically advanced agricultural producer – it was possible to feed a global population of 12 billion people to the same standard as the people in Denmark themselves enjoyed.
With the technological developments that have occurred in the intervening period it should be possible to feed a global population much in excess of that number, probably as many as 30 billion, whilst actual population is only a quarter of that. The problem is not overshoot of consumption, but undershoot of capital investment in large parts of the globe. That is again why we need to see large scale direct capital investment by multinational capital so as to raise the level of productivity in these less developed economies, along with a the rise in living standards that goes with it.
Its not a reactionary turning back of development that is required but a more rapid movement forward.
Yet, capitalism did not implement the more efficient methods scientists and other rational people were aware of because it’s not a system concerned with human need. Capitalism does not have a legacy of deploying the most efficient technologies in any proactive, forward-thinking sense, just the opposite. Ecological failures on a global scale do not come with “do-overs”. There is a reservoir of natural capital that does not immediately bounce back just because international capital suddenly realizes human beings need a habitat, and ignoring it puts an increasing burden on future generations to come up with resources and energy from a depleting natural stock to support capitalism’s prior inefficient, overproduced, development — or to simply survive in a depleted ecosystem.
Since the 1950’s, yearly emissions have increased from approximately 6 billion tons to 43 billion tons today, tracking closely with both population and energy consumption. To have a shot at staying below a 2C rise in global average temperature those emissions need to be reduced by 50% in twenty years while population and living standards increase, putting pressure on energy demand still dominated by fossil fuels. There’s no way that will occur within the logic of capitalism. If that would be possible under production for profit, international capital would have already been deployed to areas most at risk from global warming, and in developed countries, there would be something akin to full-employment with a drastically reduced but more efficient “work week”. It would’ve happened decades ago when the scientists were warning about this exact scenario.
I think that Lenin’s point regarding the necessity of pushing capitalist development forward referred to its development in czarist Russia, not at the centers of the then existing capitalist imperial system, within which Lenin and many other marxists were expecting revolutionary change. Despite positive the citation, Boffy actually doesn’t seem to care for Lenin and the Bolsheviks very much. A little later, he states categorically:
“Revolution didn’t save the Bolsheviks and Russian workers and peasants from plague, famine and pestilence…”
Here, Lenin seems to belong among Boffy’s “airy fairy” reactionaries, but useful for the purpose. Boffy’s a genius at dragging quotes out of their historical context in presenting his latter day Fabian gradualist pieties as marxist dialectics.
“I think that Lenin’s point regarding the necessity of pushing capitalist development forward referred to its development in czarist Russia, not at the centers of the then existing capitalist imperial system, within which Lenin and many other marxists were expecting revolutionary change.”
Completely wrong as usual. Lenin had just cited a passage from a Narodnik pamphlet describing the way capitalist development in Western Europe had proceeded, and the way the labour movement in Western Europe was able to “hold up” its development, and so on. Its in this context that Lenin writes that the Narodniks, as with you today, and your fellow reactionary “anti-capitalists” and “anti-imperialists” completely fail to understand the basis of Marxism. The fuller text from Lenin is,
“That is the extent to which our Narodniks misunderstand the West-European labour movement! It “holds up” capitalism, you see—and, as “debris,” it is placed on a par with feudalism!
This is clear proof that in respect of not only Russia, but also of the West, our Narodniks are incapable of understanding how one can fight capitalism by speeding up its development, and not by “holding it up,” not by pulling it back, but by pushing it forward, not in reactionary, but in progressive fashion.”
As for your comment about me not caring much for Lenin because I pointed out that revolution didn’t save them from famine and pestilence and so on what totally irrational hogwash. Lenin would have been the first to note that one of the first consequences of the revolution and civil war was the impact of all these other factors, and in fact, both he and Trotsky in numerous places do so. Pointing out facts is never anti-Marxist or anti-Leninist but central to it. It is, however, totally natural to the kind of Stalinist political current you seem to swim in.
But I suspect that this is just another ignorant comment in a long list of such comments from you submitted on the basis of trolling rather than for any purpose of rational debate.
In my ignorance, I should point out that the piece you quote was written in 1894.
I try to keep my comments brief, but I have to add to the above, that Lenin saw or soon came to see that the imperialist stage of capitalist development represented its destructive decline–as Its further development (two world wars [better than 100 million dead], followed by the post ww2’s “never ending wars”, hollow consumerism, austerity neoliberalism, ecological destruction and recurring pandemics, the rise of fascism and the treat of a third global war)–conclusively proves.
It’s characteristic of your method of argumentation that you (cynically) make use Lenin (a revolutionary!)–at this time in history–to support your cynical calculations regarding who should die and who should live to keep this vile, decadent, and murderous order functioning… believe me, I don’t think you are a troll. I think your nuts.
Except, of course, that, also in 1905 Lenin wrote,
“And from these principles it follows that the idea of seeking salvation for the working class in anything save the further development of capitalism is reactionary. In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism. The removal of all the remnants of the old order which are hampering the broad, free and rapid development of capitalism is of decided advantage to the working class.”
Lenin – Two tactics of Social Democracy In The Democratic Revolution, Chapter 6.
And, even in Imperialism, Lenin doesn’t support your reactionary ideas, but continues the same line of argument presented in these former passages. Opposing your argument as presented by Kautsky, for holding back or turning back capitalist development, Lenin again says that it is both utopian and reactionary.
““It is not the business of the proletariat,” writes Hilferding “to contrast the more progressive capitalist policy with that of the now bygone era of free trade and of hostility towards the state. The reply of the proletariat to the economic policy of finance capital, to imperialism, cannot be free trade, but socialism. The aim of proletarian policy cannot today be the ideal of restoring free competition—which has now become a reactionary ideal—but the complete elimination of competition by the abolition of capitalism.”
Kautsky broke with Marxism by advocating in the epoch of finance capital a “reactionary ideal”, “peaceful democracy”, “the mere operation of economic factors”, for objectively this ideal drags us back from monopoly to non-monopoly capitalism, and is a reformist swindle.”
And into the 1920’s, Lenin continued the same position that the way forward to socialism lay in pushing forward thought he capitalist corporations, and not your reactionary idea of trying to move backwards!
But, like every other troll, you know nothing but act as though you know everything
Here is just one quote from Lenin from 1918 that sums up just how wrong you are, and what your politics amount to.
“The workers, having grown out of the infancy when they could have been misled by “Left” phrases or petty-bourgeois loose thinking, are advancing towards socialism precisely through the capitalist management of trusts, through gigantic machine industry, through enterprises which have a turnover of several millions per year—only through such a system of production and such enterprises. The workers are not petty bourgeois. They are not afraid of large-scale “state capitalism”, they prize it as their proletarian weapon which their Soviet power will use against small proprietary disintegration and disorganisation.
This is incomprehensible only to the declassed and consequently thoroughly petty-bourgeois intelligentsia, typified among the “Left Communists” by Osinsky”
Just to rub it in. The whole problem with your position is that you seem to think that not only was Marx and Engels unaware of any “bad” side of capitalism, of the kinds you enumerate, but also so was Lenin in 1894, and it was only in 1916 that he had this revelation. The whole point about Marx’s critique of Sismondism, and of Lenin’s critique of Narod petty-bourgeois moral socialism is that they were more than aware of such “bad” aspects of capitalism, and yet still argued as against your moral socialism that it was progressive! It is the whole point of the theory of historical materialism as set out by Marx and Engels, and as utilised by Lenin in his critique of the moral socialism of the Narodniks.
In Value, Price and Profit Marx says that the workers should recognise that despite the misery it causes, it also provides the economic forms for the reconstruction of society. In capital III, he sets out that the socialised capital of the joint stock company as much as the cooperative represents the transitional form of property between capitalism and socialism. In Ant-Duhring, he and Engels describe how, the ultimate form of such development is state capitalism, which was also seen by Hilferding, and subsequently by Lenin as the basis of imperialism, but none of them argued that these developments were anything other than PROGRESSIVE, precisely because they are historical materialists NOT moralists, and saw in these developments the natural evolution according to the natural laws that Marx had set out. As Lenin says, and as Marx sets out in his preface to Capital, his theory of historical materialism shows that social development the evolution of different social organisms proceeds according to the same materialist natural laws that Darwin had described in relation to the evolution of species.
That is why the moralists who fail to recognise the objective materialist basis of Marx’s method are like the Creationists in their objection to Darwin’s theory of natural selection. In fact, in TOSV, Chapter 9, Marx makes exactly this comparison.
“Apart from the barrenness of such edifying reflections, they reveal a failure to understand the fact that, although at first the development of the capacities of the human species takes place at the cost of the majority of human individuals and even classes, in the end it breaks through this contradiction and coincides with the development of the individual; the higher development of individuality is thus only achieved by a historical process during which individuals are sacrificed for the interests of the species in the human kingdom, as in the animal and plant kingdoms, always assert themselves at the cost of the interests of individuals, because these interests of the species coincide only with the interests of certain individuals, and it is this coincidence which constitutes the strength of these privileged individuals.”
So, to return to Lenin, the Historical Materialist method he uses to define capitalist development as progressive in the 1890’s, is the same method he utilises to define it as progressive in the 1900’s, 1910’s, and 1920’s, and could be no other, because it is based upon a scientific principle, that of historical materialism. Progressive does not mean benign or beneficial as the moralists would have it, but means more developed closer to the point where the antagonistic contradictions within it, must result in a revolutionary transformation. This is the whole point of the materialist dialectic as opposed to the Hegelian dialectic.
So, Lenin says, in 1918, AFTER the revolution,
That state capitalism would be a step forward in Russia. Why, because most of the economy was still in the hands of petty-bourgeois producers, and larger capitalist producers that were not yet at the stage of forming cartels, and so on. To make the point clear he sets out the position in respect of the purest form of state capitalism of the time, Germany, the basis of Hilferding’s analysis of finance capitalism, which also forms the basis of Lenin’s “Imperialism”. Lenin says,
“To make things even clearer, let us first of all take the most concrete example of state capitalism. Everybody knows what this example is. It is Germany. Here we have “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation, subordinated to Junker-bourgeois imperialism. Cross out the words in italics, and in place of the militarist, Junker, bourgeois, imperialist state put also a state, but of a different social type, of a different class content—a Soviet state, that is, a proletarian state, and you will have the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.
Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation, which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).”
And these same principles are the ones put forward by Trotsky, not in 1894, not in 1918, but in 1939 in discussing Mexico’s Second Six Year Plan. He wrote,
“Despite all these advantages (enjoyed by the USSR, AB) the industrial reconstruction of the country was begun with the granting of concessions. Lenin accorded great importance to these concessions for the economic development of the country and for the technical and administrative education of Soviet personnel. There has been no socialist revolution in Mexico. The international situation does not even allow for the cancellation of the public debt. The country we repeat is poor. Under such conditions it would be almost suicidal to close the doors to foreign capital. To construct state capitalism, capital is necessary.”
“Considerable international capital is seeking areas of investment at the present time, even where only a modest (but sure) return is possible. Turning one’s back on foreign capital and speaking of collectivisation and industrialisation is mere intoxication with words.”
Your moralist approach is petty-bourgeois not Marxist. To the extent it says anything decipherable it is Utopian and thereby reactionary.
Also the fight against virus pandemi like todays Covid-19 is “inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering based on the latest discoveries of modern science. It is inconceivable without planned state organisation, which keeps tens of millions of people to the strictest observance of a unified standard in production and distribution. We Marxists have always spoken of this, and it is not worth while wasting two seconds talking to people who do not understand even this (anarchists and a good half of the Left Socialist-Revolutionaries).”
The problem here is fairly obvious. Sweden, which has not implemented a lock down is not headed for the 61,000 deaths you forecast with “no containment”, nor even, on current trends for even the 6,000 deaths you forecast “with containment”. Its current number of deaths stands at just 1,580, and the number of deaths per day has been on a declining trend for at least a week.
As <a href=https://boffyblog.blogspot.com/2020/04/more-scientific-backing-for-position-i.html?Professor Johan Giesicke who advises both the WHO and the Swedish government points out, because Sweden has not implemented a lock down, a much larger proportion of Swedes will now have already had COVID19 and acquired immunity to it, so that its deaths, focused, as elsewhere, in care homes and hospitals, should grow more slowly than elsewhere, because most of those who were going to die in the general population will already have done so.
By contrast, as he says, unless Britain US etc. are going to maintain a lockdown for another 18 months, until a vaccine is produced, then if the lockdown has actually prevented its spread – unlikely because the lock down is a farce and most people have continued to work – then as soon as the lockdown ends, all of these people in the general population who have been prevented from acquiring immunity will then be susceptible to infection, so that the number of deaths in the general population will rise sharply.
In fact, what the data show is that the mortality rate from COVID19 is more likely to be similar to that from Swine Flu in 2009. That is around 0.01-0.03%, or less. In fact, the actual numbers of deaths already show that the projections of deaths based on the Imperial Study were wildly out, just as the Imperial Study in relation to Swine Flu, which also predicted 45 million global deaths was massively out, by a factor of about 140!
There is a difference between COVID19 and Flu. Nearly everyone who gets flu is noticeably ill with. With COVID 19 the vast majority who contract it don’t even know they have had it, or else the symptoms with it are extremely mild. Flu affects children very badly, but COVID19 does not affect children. The other difference is this, with flu, it would kill untold millions each year, amongst those most at risk from it other than for one simple fact – those of us at risk from it get a free flu jab each year that immunises us against it! There is no such jab for COVID19, and so, given that countries failed to do the obvious thing and isolate those at risk from it, it inevitably ran riot in care homes and hospitals, in particular, and amongst old and sick people in the general population visited by overworked care workers who were not provided with proper PPE or contact protocols.
What is certain is that despite the fact that the so called lockdown is only a lockdown of social activity, whilst workers have been turned even more into drones required to turn into work to produce profits, it has resulted in about a 30% reduction in the amount of labour undertaken – i.e. 30% reduction in new value created/GDP. What we do know is that every 1% increase in the rate of unemployment causes a 2% increase in the amount of serious ill-health, and that affects the poor and the vulnerable most.
The lock down will kill far more people as a result of the economic destruction its causing than the virus ever would have done, and that is even more o the case in less developed economies across the globe.
proper link to Professor Johan Giesicke
I agree with the Swedish professor you cite And the Swedish govt is doing a rotten job of protecting the elderly
You agree with Giesicke? But, he says the lockdown is pointless and counterproductive, and disagrees with you that it will make any difference in the end in relation to mortality! No argument that Sweden has made a bad job of protecting people in its care homes. I have no interest in defending the Swedish capitalist state. However, its not made any worse job of that than has the British capitalist state.
Sweden has however done a better job of protecting the elderly in general, along with its population in general, precisely because it has not imposed a lock down of its economy. Pointing that out is not a matter of defending the Swedish capitalist state, just of stating a fact.
“As you can see, containment will enable countries to reduce the potential uncontained mortality rate by 90-99%! As a result, if sustained, containment will curb extra mortality above the normal annual average to less than 1%.”
That assumes likely mortality would have been 1%. But, even the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Pattick Vallance, said a couple of weeks ago that the likely mortality rate would be 0.1%, if measured against infections rather than reported cases. Evidence from elsewhere where studies of those with antibodies have been undertaken suggest that the mortality rate is likely to be even lower than that.
Even using the Imperial projections, which are probably out by a factor of at least ten, the mortality rate for those under 60 is extremely low, and for those under 60 who do not have any other condition lower still. Its only amongst the sick and elderly where high mortality rates exist, and they are concentrated in the care homes and hospitals, which is where all of the big numbers of fatalities have occurred, because no attempt was made to isolate the vulnerable people in these locations. Indeed the UK government said that there was little chance of people in care homes becoming infected!
The current mortality rates are inflated, precisely because all of the deaths occurring so far have been amongst these vulnerable populations in care homes and hospitals.
There are many estimates for the final mortality rate for covid 19 as I said. Maybe it will be as low as valance says but I took a median estimate The rest of your points I also made on age mortality and discussed it
How is taking a “median estimate” at all a scientific, materialist basis for analysis. Some of the higher original estimates talked about 5 million deaths in the UK, implying a 10% mortality rate, the number of deaths projected from the Imperial Study – though Imperial never said themselves such a number was likely – were for 500,000 deaths implying an approximately 1% mortality rate.
The Imperial overall mortality rate is 0.9%, but that was never going to be realistic, because it is based upon reported cases, as done with the Chinese methodology on which the projections were based. But, reported cases are a tiny fraction of the numbers actually infected. In Britain, for every person tested, 10,000 are not! In fact,as experience of the Swine Flu pandemic showed, and as the Oxford analysis suggests, even Vallance’s 0.1% mortality figure is likely to be grossly overstated, because it is based on early deaths of the most vulnerable in hospitals and care homes, where the actual mortality rates are as much as 1500 times the mortality rate for people in the general population, and at least 150 times that of people in the general population.
Typo (mine): should be: “He means by that people over 60 years of age.”
“And compared to its Scandinavian neighbours (where restrictions are nearly double that of Sweden’s – see the mobility graph above), the Swedish mortality rate will be some two or three times greater.”
Why are you basing this on “projectons” rather than reality, which is what a Marxist as a materialist is required to do? The reality of the actual mortality rate per capita in Sweden is that its about half the per capita mortality rate in the UK, and slightly better than in neighbouring Denmark, which did impose a UK style lock down.
The Swedish authorities did make a mistake in not properly isolating people in care homes, and the number of deaths in care homes there reflect the fact that their care homes tend to be larger than in some neighbouring Nordic countries such as Finland. Yet, despite that Sweden’s actual mortality rates, and numbers of deaths, as against your rather fanciful projections are actually better than those of other countries that have imposed lockdowns, and it has already seen the curve of its infection rates and mortality turn significantly downwards.
There seems no way on Earth that Sweden is going to go from its current number of actual deaths of 1580 deaths to your astronomical number of 61,000 deaths, or even to the level of 6,000 deaths. You seem, here, ironically, given the comments you have made in relation to Malthus to have gone off on a similar kind of Malthusian catastrophist fantasy based upon exponential projections rather than undertaking a simple materialist analysis of the actual data.
Sweden 153 per m and denmark is 63. I am projecting that sweden will pass the uk per cap basis. Of course it is not going to 61k. That was the point of the piece. Containment has stopped that. I do not have an agenda here. You may have
“Of course it is not going to 61k. That was the point of the piece. Containment has stopped that.”
But Sweden is not employing containment! I thought THAT was the whole point of your argument that, as a consequence, its number of deaths was somehow going to soar. But, the facts, in any case, remains that the number of new deaths in Sweden has turned down sharply, so that even on your claim that the mortality rate in Sweden was going to somehow jump above that in the UK, it looks very unlikely. The mortality rate in Sweden, which included care home deaths from the start, which UK data hasn’t, and is only belatedly being produced by the ONS, has always been about half that in the UK, and continues to be so.
I have no agenda other than to undertake a materialist analysis of the actual facts as they exist, rather than to engage in Malthusian exponential projections of future catastrophe based upon bad science, a bad science which in 2009 also projected 45 million deaths from Swine Flu, and a mortality rate of around 1%, but which turned out to be just 0.03%!
Just for the record, on 2nd April, the per capita rate in Sweden was half that in the UK, and slightly better than its neighbour Denmark, as I set out in this post. At that point deaths in Sweden were were 150 as against 80 in Denmark. Sweden’s populatin is double that of Denmark, giving it, at that time, a slightly lower, or at least equivalent level of per capita mortality. Incidentally, as pointed out in that post, the per capital mortality rate in the US was also lower than in the UK, and that despite the fact that the US does not have socialised health care, which would suggest its numbers should be much wore.
In fact, even today, the UK has had 16,500 deaths, which is the equivalent of around 82,000 deaths in the US, yet US deaths are still only 42,000, meaning that the per capita mortality rate in the US is about half that in the UK.
For comparison, the UK COVID19 deaths are now nearly at the same level as for flu deaths in 2018, which reached 17,000. The difference being that those most at risk from flu benefit from a vaccine. The 40,000 deaths in the US compares with its worst recent number of deaths from flu of 61,000.
Of course, all the numbers pale compared with deaths in total. Total UK deaths p.a. average 500,000, and the highest in recent years has been 623,000, which begs the question why an increase of just 16,000 – as compared to 123,000 – has led to calls for mass burials, mass cremations and so on, as well as the conversion of the Excel Centre, which still appears to be largely empty, which is why the media have not shown images from it recently, although this large mostly empty building has apparently sucked large amounts of equipment and staff into it from elsewhere in the NHS!
Indeed, there are 6 million emergency admissions to the NHS every year, so its hard to see why a few thousand emergency admission for COVID19 should create a crisis that would not have existed otherwise, as a result of the fact that the NHS is not fit for purpose in catering fo the needs of workers, and is even les so after ten years of austerity.
“Just for the record, on 2nd April, the per capita rate in Sweden was half that in the UK, and slightly better than its neighbour Denmark, as I set out in this post. At that point deaths in Sweden were were 150 as against 80 in Denmark. Sweden’s populatin is double that of Denmark, giving it, at that time, a slightly lower, or at least equivalent level of per capita mortality. Incidentally, as pointed out in that post, the per capital mortality rate in the US was also lower than in the UK, and that despite the fact that the US does not have socialised health care, which would suggest its numbers should be much wore.” [Typos NOT added]
Pure genius on the part of troll Boffy.
First troll Boffy reaches back some 19 days to show us NOW that Sweden was doing better than Denmark. Brilliant. If only we could stop the film at April 2nd.
Of course, kind of the whole point of a lockdown is that it will prove its worth in the LONG RUN; so while the disease has its initial foothold infection rates and mortality rates parallel, match, exceed those countries experimenting with troll Boffy’s beloved Social Darwinism, over the long run countries that initiate quarantine type measures will do better, which is exactly what we see.
And Denmark’s lockdown was a “stepped” process, as reported in Business Insider:
“Denmark’s lockdown never got as strict as those in many other nations, where people were limited in leaving their homes. People in Denmark could still go outside, attend events with fewer than 10 people, and get takeaway food and drinks from restaurants and cafes.
The country initially used a “containment strategy” that the Danish police said was based on “fast diagnosis, contact tracing and quarantine of those evaluated to be at risk.” But as the virus spread, Denmark moved to a “mitigation strategy,” banning large gatherings and seeking to protect the most vulnerable people.”
Secondly, troll Boffy argues that socialized health care makes no difference because the US per capita mortality rate is lower than that in the UK. Genius, poor genius. Or ignorance. We have no real idea what the real infection and death rates are in the United States since so little testing has been done, particularly on fatalities not previously tested for the virus. Those dying at home, untested, remain untested. Their deaths are categorized as “unclassified,” “pneumonia,” “heart failure” “respiratory failure” and yes, some are attributed to covid 19; but we have no real idea. That’s one.
As for two, right, absent a vaccine or effective therapy, without quarantine and tracing procedures, no mode of medical care will prevent the spread of the virus. Absolutely brilliant.
Troll Boffy, preferring the term “herd immunity” to the class-conscious (even among the bourgeoisie) “Social Darwinism” argues that the “vulnerable population’ should be isolated. He means by that, people over 70 years of age. And I would guess he would include those with underlying illnesses– diabetes, hypertension, cancers, compromised immune systems although maybe I’m just being charitable (how unlike me BTW).
Except the city of New York reports for April 19 the following rates per 100,000 people by age group, based on positive testing results, so it’s clearly not the whole picture, but the only picture we have:
over 75– 1700
over 75– 800
So 1 out of every 6 cases of those aged 45-64 when admitted to the hospital, die.
So 6 out of every 100 case of those aged 18-44 when admitted to the hospital, die.
Does that sound to anyone like the infection isn’t a serious risk for those age groups? Anybody else here have children or grandchildren, or a spouse, or a self, in those two lower age groups? And do you want to volunteer them or yourself to help build “herd immunity” so capitalism can get back to laying track for the Great Western Social Darwinism Railway?
I happen to have two daughters, one in each of the two lower age brackets and I know how dimly they regard this nonsense of “herd immunity” without a vaccine.
And then, channeling Mike Pence, Boris Johnson, and the usual assortment of right wing lunatics, manipulating numbers for fun and profit, troll Boffy states this:
“Indeed, there are 6 million emergency admissions to the NHS every year, so its hard to see why a few thousand emergency admission for COVID19 should create a crisis that would not have existed otherwise, as a result of the fact that the NHS is not fit for purpose in catering fo the needs of workers, and is even les so after ten years of austerity.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be a few thousand emergency admission OVER THE COURSE OF A YEAR EVENLY SPREAD ACROSS ALL FACILITIES. It’s those thousand clustered in time and space, with subsequent hospitalization rates AFTER the ER treatment being higher, lasting longer, and requiring greater attention. That’s precisely what has driven the health care systems in Europe and the US close to collapse.
The average length of a hospitalization in the US PRE Covid19 was FIVE (5) days; the average length of a hospital stay in the US for those being treated for Covid 19? TEN (10) to THIRTEEN (13) days.
Quite clearly, it’s really past time for this troll Boffy to shut the hell up; to do us all the favor of practicing some self-isolation and stop sneezing his nonsense on the rest of us.
Where a mask, Boffy, and keep away from keyboards.
I just checked the latest data, and the comment about Sweden compared to Denmark is no longer true. Denmark now does have lower per capita mortality rate. But, Sweden’s 1580 deaths equates to around 9500 UK deaths, whereas actual UK deaths are 16,509, or as I said almost double the Swedish per capita rate.
Denmark deaths per m 63 norway 33 Finland 18 uk 243. Yes, sweden is behind the uk right now as my figures show but the projection for Sweden is that eventually passes the uk per cap rate. We shall see
The per capita rate in Sweden is about half what it is in the UK, and has been about half from the onset of the pandemic. The number of deaths per day seems to have peaked in Sweden about a week ago, and is dropping fairly sharply. The latest figure for 19th April is 389, with the total deaths standing at 1580. Even if the number of deaths per day did not continue to fall on the trend that seems to be established, and remained at 389 per day, it would take 156 days (6 months) to reach your projected figure of 61,000 deaths. That looks extremely unlikely on present trends, and because of what we know of the science of the virus and transmission.
The current levels of deaths are down to it killing old and sick people, because as the Swedish government and its advisors recognise, they didn’t recognise the problem of it infecting their care homes, in particular, which is where, alongside hospitals a large part of the deaths have occurred. That was also the case in Italy, and is being shown to be true in Britain by the day.
There is absolutely no evidence based on the facts to suggest that the mortality rate in Sweden is suddenly going to rise above that in Britain, because it has remained constant, and the rate on Sweden is itself already turning sharply down. As Giesecke points out, in Sweden their extensive and large care homes are one reason it has had the mortality rate it had compared to Finland, where there care homes are generally much smaller.
There is, and always has been only one way of protecting against large numbers of deaths from COVID19, and that is and always was to have isolated those actually at risk from it, the 20% of the population that is elderly – over 60 – and/or who suffer from underlying medical conditions that compromise their immune systems. It is failure to have done that that has led to the large numbers of deaths of elderly and or infirm people, particularly in hospitals and care homes – as happened previously with hospital infections like MRSA – whilst th vast majority of people who, even on the Imperial data are at no statistically significant risk from it, have been prevented from engaging in social activity, whilst capital still demands they go to work and produce profit for it, but whose health and well being is at the same time being seriously damaged by the creation of an unnecessary economic crisis.
The well respected professor of medicine and epidemiology at Stanford Univesity, John Ioannidis, wrote in the middle of March that it was shaping up to be “a once-in-a-century evidence fiasco.”.
The relation of the actual data to the hysterical projections of likely deaths proves that assessment to be correct by the day.
Michael “containment does not just depend on the level of restrictions and lockdown, but also on the level of hospital facilities and testing.”
No doubt, but there are lots of other factors too.
I’d suggest that the movement of people, both in and out of and within countries is quite critical too.
If you look at the intitial stages of the pandemic in Britian, the first cases were people who’d arrived here from China (the 2 York cases) and those returning from Italy (the Brighton cases)
Their contacts don’t appear to have been traced properly and quarantine wasn’t applied early enough.
Then we had Johson visiting hospitals, shaking hands with patients (probably thinking he was behaving like Lady Diana visiting Aids Patients), attending the England Wales Rugby game and allowing Cheltenham races to go ahead.
Liberalism is no use in a pandemic!
Tis liberal capitalist approach set the tone for person-to-person transmission.
However much one might question the approach adopted by China and Vietnam, it does seem to have stifled the outbreak. And, New Zealand appears to have done likewise.
We shouldn’t let Johnson or the Tories forget this.
In China, as they have had to end the lockdown in Wuhan, they have seen a spike in infections in neighbouring provinces, which is inevitable as a result of a lock down strategy, because it means that other populations do not acquire herd immunity., So China will face the question does it forget about its lockdown strategy and go for a herd immunity strategy, or does it now try to lock down every province one by one, which could go on for years, taking its economy back to a state probably as bad as that which led to the famine that killed millions under Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”!
Similarly, Singapore is now seeing infections on the rise, and it looks like South Korea is also seeing a rise in infections, because the success of its test and trace strategy is also its long-term weakness in the absence of a vaccine, because the more effective such a strategy, initially, in preventing the spread of the virus, precisely because it prevents the development of herd immunity, the worse becomes the longer-term problem, if the virus does take hold so that it can no longer be contained.
That is why Britain is seeing again a spike in deaths, whilst Sweden, which has probably seen most of its population by now develop herd immunity is seeing its infection rates and mortality on a declining trend. Virologists and epidemiologists who have dealt with such situations in the realm of veterinary medicine on a regular basis have known about this for years, and have said from the start that the way to have dealt with it is as I suggested, which is to have isolated the 20% of the population actually at high risk. That would have prevented them being infected and placing a burden on health resources whilst it would have meant that the 80% of the population jot at serious risk would have developed herd immunity, having suffered no or very minor symptoms. Once that immunity is developed, which would have happened quickly, within a matter of about 2-3 months, the virus would have died out, and the 20% could end their self isolation, safely.
Complete and utter bollocks from our resident social darwinist: Below is a chart of new case in China as reported by the WHO. The lockdown on Wuhan ended April 7:
Since I can’t paste the chart, I’ll reproduce it in tabular format:
4/1 86; 4/2 93; 4/3 78; 4/4 73; 4/5 58; 4/6 75
4/7 66; 4/8 86; 4/9 92; 4/10 56; 4/11 64; 4/12 113; 4/13 115;
4/14 99; 4/15 49; 4/16 52; 4/17 352; 4/18 31; 4/19 21; 4/20 36;
4/21 13; 4/22 37;
Well, I would hesitate to offer an interpretation, given the fact that incubation periods can meet or exceed 14 days; that people with the virus may be asymptomatic, but it’s really hard to make an argument for a spike due to a “lack of herd immunity.”
There’s a 3 day bump, 4/12-14, which decline significantly after that– don’t ask me what explains the 352 mark on 4/17.
Clearly either there isn’t a significant sustained spike, or it’s too early to tell, and what we have here is another case of troll Boffy being all too confident that nobody’s going to look into the concrete data but simply accept his ideological manipulations.
And as for South Korea– the numbers again are in direct opposition to troll Boffy’s assertions:
Average new cases daily declined from 78 in the first week of April to 17 in the third week of April
The Bangkok Post has noted that Singapore has seen a new surge in CV infections, with 1,000 new infections being reported, as it eased its lockdown.
If troll Boffy bothered to look into the details of…. well, anything… he would discover (1) neither South Korea nor Singapore initially used the “lockdown” method to slow the spread of the infection. Both relied on extensive testing, quarantining and contact tracing (2) the new wave of infections in Singapore are centered among the population of migrant workers many of whom live in dorms with no ability to socially isolate (3) Singapore has adopted and increased restrictions and the stipulations of a lockdown in RESPONSE to this surge. The surge did not occur because there was a prior lockdown that was relaxed.
Oh and BTW, that 352 new cases reported by China on April 17? That’s an adjustment number meant to correct previous under reporting of the number of cases (and fatalities)…so if you spread that 352 over the entire 21 day period, it comes out to 17 cases a day, and the average daily new cases per week shows a steady decline in China, as it does in South Korea.
So much for surges because governments refused to let the virus run free and create a “herd immunity.”
I can’t be the only one recoiling from Boffy in horror at the moment. He is the Malthusian he constantly accuses others of being, he is also the troll he accuses others of being. He gets Malthus laughably wrong, then again so many others do as well. The problem is people read Malthus through a late 20th century environmentalist lens. He was not the Rachel Carson of the 1790’s, he was arguing against helping the poor. His statements about over-population were about the poor breeding too much and hence undermining apparently any aid you gave to them. Since his morality rebelled against both contraception and nonprocreative sexual acts he decided that the poor had to suffer high mortality to keep things in check.
Enough baloney from Troll Boffy.
According to Johns Hopkins, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway all have approximately equal rates of positive testing covid 19 cases. HOWEVER, Sweden’s confirmed deaths per total tests weighs in at 10.7% while Denmark’s is 4.7%, and Norway, where rigorous isolation restrictions are in effect, has a death rate of about 2.5 %
And according to the same source, Norway’s fatality rate (in relation to total cases) has always been significantly lower than Sweden’s.
Now I’m not a doctor, I don’t play one on TV but I do know that viral load, the quantity of virus a host absorbs has something to do with the severity of the disease. So let me suggest, with no lockdown procedures, one possible explanation for this wide disparity in death rates, is that the frequency of exposure in Sweden gets expressed in the more severe infection to the host, and a higher death rate.
It’s possible that Sweden’s testing is so much more widespread than Denmark or Norway’s- but I’ve read nothing to indicate that.
Troll Boffy argues that Sweden’s fatality rate is lower than the UK’s and argues that mitigates against lockdowns. Of course Troll Boffy ignores the fact that the UK was a little late to the lockdown party, with Johnson issuing the stay-at-home on March 24– a little bit of the old closing the barn door a day late and a dollar short, and Bob’s your dead uncle.
But this is also so much abstraction. Let’s get concrete. The point of the lockdown is not so much to stop as it is to retard the spread of the virus so as not to overwhelm the healthcare system. And I think you can all see what’s occurred in NYC which was also late to the lockdown party. The healthcare system was in fact overwhelmed for about a week. So……..if we’re serious about not locking down and going down Rue Social Darwin, then we need to deny healthcare services to those contracting the disease. Anybody for that? Anybody going to trip down Covid Lane hand in hand with the troll Boffy and forego medical care at the same time? And that denial of medical care has to become universal, right? Sure thing, count on it in a class society. Why we know how equal health care will be in a capitalist society, like the UK. Just ask Boorish Johnson. He stood in line just like everybody else, I’m sure.
Let’s really get concrete–where are the hotspots in NYC? The Bronx, and Queens, particularly, Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, and Corona Queens. And quess what? These are all areas that are working class, with people who cannot afford to socially isolate, who work in services, essential services, and are lucky to get paid at all to the point where they can’t take a day off.a So that’s what we’re dealing with lockdown or no lockdown, class society.
Does troll Boffy demand that employers change production procedures to provide a margin of safety? Provide the proper equipment to protect workers? Of course not. He lives in an abstract world.
Well, here’s the concrete world. In the NYC area, the MTA, responsible for the Metro, commuter railroads (think RER outside Paris), city and suburban bus systems has lost about 80 employees to the virus. Now MTA has decided that it will pay a death benefit of $500,000 to the families of each of the workers. That’s swell. What MTA has NOT done is take the time to reconfigure service and schedules, and create a system so that trains and buses can be disinfected after every round trip, because that’s too hard. What the MTA has not done reconfigure work schedules so employees on an “extra board” don’t “shape up” in a ready room where they cannot socially isolate. That stuff is just too hard for our social darwinists. And that’s where troll Boffy is right at home; with those shedding crocodile tears over “heroic” essential workers, while sacrificing their lives for the sake of…….maintaining the status quo, maintaining capitalism.
Spot on. Not a bad analysis for someone out of their field. One thing that worries me is that we are not going to get a lessons learnt from an open and transparent multi national investigation of what actually happened in Wuhan so we can all make sure it won’t happen again (or at least be prepared for it).
Our rulers knew. They were afraid of causing a panic in the markets of the world, markets full of commodities produced by wage labour. Sales would plummet. Ma gawd! And guess what. Our rulers did nothing. Like the mayor of that town in the novel then movie, “Jaws”, they were afraid that knowledge of the monster would hurt business. Go swimming. Enjoy the beach. So what if a few tourists get chomped on.
There is a similar attitude brewing now, what with the wealth producers getting cabin fever and the President of the United States stoking the flame of liberty. Liberty to spread COVID-19 to others–my freedom is your unfreedom. Now you see how liberty operates under the rule of the free market.
“US intelligence agencies alerted Israel to the coronavirus outbreak in China already in November, Israeli television reported Thursday.
“According to Channel 12 news, the US intelligence community became aware of the emerging disease in Wuhan in the second week of that month and drew up a classified document.
Information on the disease outbreak was not in the public domain at that stage — and was known only apparently to the Chinese government.
“US intelligence informed the Trump administration, “which did not deem it of interest,” but the report said the Americans also decided to update two allies with the classified document: NATO and Israel, specifically the IDF.”
“Times of Israel” April 16, 2020
Spot on. Not a bad analysis for someone out of their field. What worries me is there won’t be a bipartisan open and transparent ‘lessons learnt’ investigation into what actually happened in Wuhan. Trump being Trump has politicised the whole thing and the chances of getting to the bottom of it so we can do our best to prevent this from happening again are not good.
A misunderstanding about the Swedish approach implied here, and common globally and sometimes by Swedes themselves, is that the rationale behind the approach is governed by a trade-off between the economy and health concerns. I would argue that this is in fact not the case.
The Swedish government have more or less followed the advice of Folkhälsomyndigheten (FHM), the Agency for Public Health in Sweden. FHM is not a CDC in a narrow sense. Its mission is to look at the public health as a whole. This entails that other aspects of health and well-being, such as domestic violence, exercise, depressions et cetera is taken into consideration. They do not take the economy into consideration. (Of course, one could argue that there is a hidden agenda here, but why these hidden economic interests should win out in Sweden and hardly anywhere else seems to me to be an enigma.)
This meant that when FHM deemed that the virus was uncontainable (partly, perhaps due to their own failings in containing it from the start, but that is another story) it shifted towards recommending restrictions that the deemed to be enough to keep the levels of infections at a level that the hospitals, most critically the number of ICUs, could coup with. From their point of view a R0 below 1 is pointless and taking policy steps to achieve that is not helping the public health. This seems now to be the case, as the number of people on intensive care for Covid-19 is not increasing drastically (I thought it would be a shit-storm).
In the long-run it might turn out that the Swedish approach is the most successful but there is however still to many unknowns about this virus and the disease to say for sure. Furthermore, many seems to overemphasise the differences between Sweden and other countries. A recommendation from a Swedish government agency is essentially an order, just framed in a nicer, more friendly fashion.
A simple calculation:
We take a population of 100 and there is a flu outbreak. 30 people got vaccinated. 20 people are infected. With a (high) death rate of 5 percent, 1 person dead is to be expected.
There is no vaccine and the time of infection is not just 1-2 days, but 8-10 days when virus carriers pass on the disease, even though they do not feel any symptoms.
Without countermeasures, 80 people are expected to fall ill. With the same death rate (5% of those who are infected), 4 corona deaths are to be expected – four times as many as with normal flu.
In addition, a virus flu ties the 20 sick people to the bed for 10 days each – resulting in a total of 200 sick days. Covid-19 can tie up to bed for up to 6 weeks, roughly making around 1,500 sick days in our case.
In addition, there is a great risk that many doctors, nurses and geriatric nurses will become infected, which will exacerbate the impending need for nursing. A nursing emergency would inevitably increase Covid-19’s “natural” death rate.
Anyone who can count will find that even with an identical death rate, Covid-19 is many times more dangerous to society than flu.
Perhaps nothing is quite so specious, and pernicious, in troll Boffy’s advocacy of social darwinism than his view than his panglossian treatment of “herd immunity.”
Herd immunity was first theorized in the US in the 1930s, as it was observed that measles outbreaks tended to die out the more children were infected and developed antibodies. However, the actual incidence record shows a no point was the herd immunity strong enough to prevent subsequent outbreaks of the disease.
Measles outbreaks have recently taken place in the US, indicating that even with a 91% vaccination rate, the herd immunity is seriously compromised when 9 or 10 percent remain unvaccinated.
I’ve done a little research, just a little, and I can find no record of a disease being eradicated from a population due to herd immunity by isolating particularly at-risk individuals and letting the disease race through the rest of the population. And the answer to that is simple. We can’t keep our hands off each other or stay in one place too long. So there always new hosts being brought in– either into the world through reproduction or travel contact.
Herd immunity without a vaccine is an oxymoron. Or a death sentence. Or… social darwinism. OR…..eugenics. You know that old adage, “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger”? Well that’s just bullshit, but it’s the bullshit the “natural immunity” crowd bases its propaganda upon.
Then there’s troll Boffy’s caveats about protecting the “vulnerable” population, by which he means those over 60. Swell. Except there are many more who have different and varied vulnerabilities that both overlap and stand apart from age.
For example, 10.5% of the US population has diabetes, and diabetes is a severe risk factor with covid19. Not all diabetics are over 60.
Almost 1/3 of the adults in the US age 40-59 have various levels of heart disease, another risk factor.
We can add hypertension, hepatitis, and COPD to the lists; And here’s breaking news — those who are recovering from covid19 are presenting with higher incidences of post-infection kidney failure, so I would suggest we drop the discussion of herd immunity and concentrate on how we protect workers and the general population from the virus; how we would manage the production and distribution of medical equipment necessary to combat the virus.
very interesting and useful artical. if you never mind I will translate it in arabic along with incorporation the writer name (your name) and refering the readers back to the url of this page.
im from yemen. sanaa.
Bilalyemen Yes, please do. Can you send me a url when you have done it and I shall post it.
kind of you to give my this oppurtunity to translate ur valued viewpoint and opinion and share same with people in Yemen and all arab world countries.
the translated article already published on 23/4/2020 at
hope i did quite well transelation.
once again thank u indeed
Sorry, I´m of Chile. My English is not good. I speak spanish only.
However, for my, your´r write is very interesting, I like.
My Englis is very poor, sorry.
Thank´s a lot!
El lun., 20 abr. 2020 a las 10:49, Michael Roberts Blog () escribió:
> michael roberts posted: “It is a risky thing to start analysing the COVID > stats and coming up with some conclusions at this still early stage of the > pandemic. It is even riskier for an economist to delve into areas beyond > his or her supposed expertise. But after looking at myri” >
Raul Hola. There is a spanish version of my books. https://www.elviejotopo.com/libro/la-larga-depresion/
This illustrates the problem of people who have no idea about the science making ridiculous projections. With COVID19 out of 100 people infected, 80 are not “expected to fall ill”, because with COVID19, unlike flu, 80% of people are asaymptomatic or have only very mild symptoms. That’s one reason it spreads so easily, and why already according to the Oxford study a majority of populations are probably already infected or have been infected and are now immune.
You then assume that the COVID19 mortality rate is the same as for flu, but it isn’t. Its more like the mortality rate for Swine Flu, of around 0.03.0.05%, or about a third to a half of the mortality rate for flu. Also you have assumed that only half the population get infected with flu, whereas you assume 80% of people are infected with coronavirus. If you had assumed the same level of infection the numbers would not support your argument.
Moreover, in most years, large numbers of people are infected with coronavirus. The Glasgow study showed that between 8-14% of people in any year diagnosed with “flu-like symptoms” actually were infected with coronavirus. Its just that in any other year, people are not tested because they have “flu-like symptoms” to identify exactly what the virus is that they are infected with. Its just put down to “flu”, just as with the common cold. The “common cold” i, in fact simply a generic name given to people suffering a series of symptoms that are caused by coronavirus,
“The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory tract. The most commonly implicated virus is a rhinovirus (30–80%), a type of picornavirus with 99 known serotypes. Other commonly implicated viruses include human coronaviruses (≈ 15%), influenza viruses (10–15%), adenoviruses (5%), human respiratory syncytial virus (orthopneumovirus), enteroviruses other than rhinoviruses, human parainfluenza viruses, and human metapneumovirus. Frequently more than one virus is present. In total, more than 200 viral types are associated with colds.”
“In addition, there is a great risk that many doctors, nurses and geriatric nurses will become infected, which will exacerbate the impending need for nursing. A nursing emergency would inevitably increase Covid-19’s “natural” death rate.”
There is no reason that should be the case. Firstly, if the at risk 20% of the population had been isolated to begin with, there would have been fewer cases of serious infection requiring hospitalisation. Secondly, if the 20% of healthcare and social care staff in the at risk groups had been put on indefinite sick leave with full pay at the beginning they would have been removed from a potentially hazhardous environment. Thirdly, if health and social care staff had been provided with proper PPE to begin with, they would have had less chance of being given large does of virus, and would have not been potential spreaders of the virus to patients. As in Italy, the largest area of mortality has been in hospitals and care homes, where people admitted for other reasons have subsequently become infected as happened some years ago with MRSA.
If you look at the data provided by the testing done in Britain, in the first 100,000 tests done, all of which were of people admitted to hospital with serious flu-like symptoms, only 10% actually had COVID19, suggesting the other 90% had some other serious flu like virus. So, its far more likely that a state capitalist health service, created to meet the needs of capital not workers, which was thereby unfit for purpose as far as workers are concerned, despite the best and valiant efforts of the workers employed in it, was simply generally overrun, which is a situation that has been warned would have in a bad flu season for years. Its ten years of austerity that has made that situation worse.
“Also you have assumed that only half the population get infected with flu, whereas you assume 80% of people are infected with coronavirus.”
Actually, you assumed only 20% were infected, with 30% being vaccinated, which seems like a low number of infections relative to vaccinations. But, not even everyone vaccinated is necessarily immune, because it depends on the right strains of flue being included in the vaccine, and on those infected not being infected by some other strain of flu etc.
So, even though you have made assumptions that are designed to produce the conclusion you desired, the reality is significantly different.
And the facts are straightforward.
The Imperial data itself shows that there is not one single mortality rate for COVID19. It claims a mortality rate of 9% for the over 80’s, but a mortality rate of just 0.002% for the 0-9’s, 0.006% for the 10-19’s, 0.030% for the 20-29’s, 0.080% for the 30-39’s, 0.15% for the 40-49’s, and 0.600% for the 50-59’s. Their overall mortality rate is 0.9%, because it is based on the Chinese data and relates to “reported cases” rather than actual infections. If we take the evidence of the government’s Chief Scientific Advisor, Sir Patrick Vallance, that the mortality rate, measured against estimated infections is only 0.1%, we would have to shift all of these above rates to the right by one decimal point.
In fact, as the study done by Oxford University suggests, the actual mortality rate is likely to be much lower even than 0.1%. Its likely to be closer to the 0.02% of Swine Flu. They estimated that around half the population in Britain are already infected, so that is around 30 million people, and the current number of deaths of 18,000 (likely to rise to at least 20,000) means a mortality rate of around 0.07%. But, there estimate of 30 million infections is now two weeks old, so its likely to now be closer to 40 million, giving a mortality rate of 0.05%.
Latest data shows that 53% of deaths were people over 80, 39% people aged 60-79, 7% were 40-59, 1% aged 20-39, and just 0.1% aged 0-19. In other words 92% of all the deaths in the UK from COVID19 were of people over 60. And, of the rest, a large majority suffered from other underlying causes, meaning that the number of people who are neither elderly nor suffering from other conditions, who die from COVID19, is statistically insignificant, however, tragic at an individual level, every such death is. In addition, without a full medical analysis, it is not possible, either, to say, whether any of those individuals had other factors contributing to their death. We are told, for example, that Boris Johnson is only 55, and fit, but really? ONS give a different breakdown, but with the same basic finding.
What this emphasises is that the rational course of action from the beginning was to ensure that those in that group of elderly, over 60 and/or vulnerable cohort were able to self isolate effectively, because although they comprise only 20% of the population they make up nearly the whole of the deaths from the virus. That indeed, is the course of action that virtually every government is now being driven towards, and the course that nearly all of the scientific advice is giving! Its only a question of how they get out of the unnecessary lockdown strategy they adopted.
As Singapore and China illustrates the lock down can never work, because as soon as you release it, vulnerable populations are again prone to infection all over again. But, as Britian shows the lockdown is often just a farce. Everyone who looks around can see that lots of people have continued to go to work. The GDP data itself shows that the amount of new value created, i..e the amount of labour undertaken has fallen by only 30%, meaning 70% of normal labour has continued to take place. And perhaps as well or society would have collapsed, because as Marx said in his letter to Kugelmann, every child knows that if any nation stopped work for even a few weeks it would be destroyed. Nowadays its only a question of days not weeks. CNBC this morning had pictures of the continual flow of construction vehicles travelling around London, as various construction projects continue, for example. Its really only social activity, and the operation of a significant number of small private businesses that have stopped, along with those businesses for whom demand for their output has collapsed, such as car makers, which again shows that it is demand that leads growth.
That is also why Giesicke is right that the overall numbers in the end will not differ much between those countries that imposed lockdowns and those that didn’t. The mortality rate in Sweden continues to be about half what it is in the UK, despite the former not imposing a lockdown, whilst the latter has done so. The US has imposed some lockdown, but not as rigorous as the UK, yet the US mortality rate is also about half what it is in the UK.
The real question in terms of mortality will come down to which countries isolated and protected the 20% of their population at serious risk, and which didn’t. But, as Giesicke says, unless an effective vaccine is produced, even that will not matter in the end, because you can’t keep that 20% isolated for ever.
In addition to the upturn in infections in Singapore, The New York Times is now reporting that China is having to impose additional restrictions, as it sees infections rise again having relaxed the lock down in Hubei.
As Giesicke and others have said this will be seen everywhere that such a lockdown policy has been introduced, whenever it is relaxed, which is why it can’t work. And as Giesicke points out, countries like South Korea and Germany that kept initial control of the spread not by lock downs, but by the use of extensive testing and tracing will also not be able to maintain policy forever. South Korea that saw new infections drop to near zero saw them rise again in recent days, and it only requires a few people not to be traced for it to spread quickly. In fact, we don’t know how many people in South Korea might be infected, precisely because the vast majority are asymptomatic.
And, as the comrades in New Zealand have pointed out the strict lockdown measures there are not working, and there are demands for them to be lifted.
To try to break up the lockdown in NZ might be a much better way than to continue it. Especially for the NZ Tourist industry. If one looks at the international fight against Covid – 19 it would of course be better if at lest one country held out to the bitter end. So that the results get evident. But that is a decision that can only be made in an internationalist socialist society, not in a part of globalized capitalism?
“In addition to the upturn in infections in Singapore, The New York Times is now reporting that China is having to impose additional restrictions, as it sees infections rise again having relaxed the lock down in Hubei.”
Look if we’re going to cite the NYT, then let’s site it properly.
Like, let’s look at the actual fatalities rates vs. the reported fatality rates because of Covid19. The NYT, based on the total deaths reported, and the cause identified found that in country after country fatalities due to Covid 19 are being underreported. ( see the NYT 4/22 edition “Tracking the Trule Toll of the Pandemic” (https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/04/21/world/coronavirus-missing-deaths.html?searchResultPosition=1)
The NYT calculated the historical average weekly deaths for England and Wales, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Jakarta, and Istanbul. Then it the weekly deaths above the average, and compared that to the reported covid19 deaths. The figures are pretty striking.
Now unless there’s another virus out there causing the spike, deaths due to covid19 in England and Wales are underreported by 40 %; in Spain by 38%; Belgium by 30%;
France 25%; Jakarta by 90%, Istanbul 50%; Netherlands 45%. Only Sweden is accurately reporting the deaths due to covid19.
So……how do you feel about herd immunity now. Oh sure, testing is so bad in most of these countries we can’t really tell what percentage of the population is infected, and what the true overall fatality rate is, but that means nothing to the dead, and the dying does it?
“And, as the comrades in New Zealand have pointed out the strict lockdown measures there are not working, and there are demands for them to be lifted.”
If you actually bother to read the entire article, you find nothing in it that says the lockdown measures taken in New Zealand are not working. The argument made in the article is that the lockdown measures may be doing more harm than good because of the economic impact, and are unnecessary in a country whose population density is as low as New Zealand’s. Well the Kiwi’s weigh in at 18 people per square kilometer, which certainly can work as a barrier to infection spread, unless of course you live in Wellington with a population density of 900 per square kilometer (itself a very low number for an urban area).
Britain’s overall population density is 274 people per sq. kilometer, and London’s is 4540 per square kilometer. I suggest that none of the epidemiologists attaching their names to the article would even hint that their findings would apply to Britain, or London for that matter.
Back to the troll Boffy’s specious claim that the lockdown measures are failing in New Zealand, for the last 7 days, the WHO reports average daily NEW cases of covid19 in New Zealand clock in at 4.4 new cases daily; and average daily new deaths are at 0.84.
As a New Yorker, I can only hope sometime in the distant future we can get down to those rates.
Brought to you as a public health service announcement
Ever a source of comfort, not to mention solid information, in these difficult times, troll Boffy writes: “Its likely to be closer to the 0.02% of Swine Flu.”– the IT being the fatality rate from Covid19 infection.
That’s glorious news from, and for, Dr. Pollyanna Pangloss. Except some might not be quite so impressed by the good doctor’s credentials, or his/her ability with simple math.
If you do the simple math of dividing a fatality rate of .02% into the confirmed deaths reported to the WHO, you’ll discover that France has a population of of about 119 million, not the 67 million the world has been tricked into believing; Italy’s population is 127.5 million, not the 60 million reported; Spain 110 million; the UK 90 million.
Who would have thought that those countries would have been concealing so many people? Not to mention that all the talk of “herd immunity” needs to be….adjusted, yeah that’s the word, “adjusted.”
Back to the drawing board, Dr. Pangloss, and this time, check your numbers
Forgot to add— assumes a 100% infection rate.
Not to put too fine a point on it but Johns Hopkins reports today that covid19 fatality rates adjusted for population size in Denmark are 60 percent lower than in Sweden; in Norway, they are 80 percent lower.
The Swedish statistics and the reporting of those has often been somewhat special. They were very special at the 1990-crisis when they hid that the unemployment was (partly) created by much longer hours for the workers that were not laid off. Today in reproting of the Covid-19 one can see other methods of manipulation. What trend can be seen depends on how the differens between the date of death and the date that the death is reported. I had to draw curves so i put it up on my own site http://www.fredtorssander.se/fredpress/2020/04/23/covid-19-statistics-lies-damned-lies-etc/
On your Facebook site you say this:
‘’ The US stock market has recorded its best week since 2011.It’s a fantasy world. ’’
The rise in the US Stock Exchanges and in the rest of the countries will continue after the stoppage of activity and initial fright in March. And it is the evidence that the Covid-19 crisis will hara ’do the job’ ’for monopolistic companies (FAANG, Dow Jones, Cac40, Nikkei, Ibex35, etc.). Doing the job (and at zero cost) means the massive and immediate elimination of competing small and medium-sized companies (which are NOT LISTED on the stock exchanges) and means the capture of their clients, fixed assets and markets. Corporations are not in a fantasy, they and their shareholder investors are seeing their balance sheets, sales and profits grow. The virus only accelerates and aggravates the tendency of the capitalist model (and of any other model) towards the concentration of capital. No, the virus is a blessing for large stock corporations. The 2008 financial crisis proved it.
The problem with the Covid-19 pandemic is not in the first hand the virus. Its is new but not an Ebola-type danger. It’s the interaction between the administration of the pandemic and administration of the acute crisis in capitalism that is really dangerous, and will have to be fought against. As Antonio writes the finance-monopoly capital can, and probably will eliminate this generation of the new petty bourgeoisie. The big capital can also use the lockdown as a lockout of all the “non essential” working class and create a much greater relative overpopulation – industrial reserve army by only letting a chosen few come back to the working places. And by this they will be able to force down wages and social Insurance and infra-structure further. Which might create one more stop-gap before the productivity breaks the productive relations. The last time there was a long depression next big step was the inter-imperialist war.
Yeah true. If the virus produces, to the infinite joy of monopoly corporations, an elimination of small and medium-sized companies, there will be an expansion (in the USA + 22 million unemployed in just 4 weeks) of the so-called de reserve army ’by K. Marx. More unemployment, less salary, more precarious contracts, etc … Everything happened in an abrupt and radical way. No wonder M. R. is amazed at the data of the fall (unemployment, PMI indices, etc …) because for an economist this is an unprecedented and infrequent event in history.
On the other hand, this comment of his is interesting: ‘’ The last time there was a long depression next big step was the inter-imperialist war. ’’ He is referring to the Long Depression of the last quarter of the 19th century and the 1st World War. It is interesting because that period prior to 1º W.W. it is for some scholars, including myself, the descending phase of a Kondratiev cycle begun in 1848. Not everyone thinks the same (M. R., does not, for example.) About it. As that period is the descent of a Kondratiev cycle, the most probable end to the cycle is one of the 4 main events studied by Walter Scheidel, an excellent social democratic historian who teaches at U. Stanford in California: war, failed state, pandemic and revolution . W. Scheidel studies historical inequality and its phenomena from the Neolithic in his applauded work ‘’ The Great Leveler: Violence and the History of Inequality from the Stone Age to the Twenty-First Century. ”
The final question that remains, and that I cannot answer, is whether the current Pandemic will be radical enough to end the capitalist mode of production. W. Scheidel, in a recent interview, believes that it will not be but does not rule it out either.
It depends how long lockdowns last. So, far we have sizeable reductions in new value created, not actual destruction of capital, which would take many more months. Much of the labour is precarious, largely underemployed, or disguised unemployment, which has been a cause of low productivity.
A shave out of the small capitalists and new concentration of capital will be good for growth. All of the money printed, in conditions of constrained production and supply means that as soon as lockdowns are released inflation will rise sharply. All of the additional borrowing also means interest rates will rise causing a huge fall in asset prices.
So, its quite possible that rising inflation – rising money profits too – along with a crash in asset prices, will drive money into real capital accumulation, causing a sharp increase in growth.
There is an excellent summary of the arguments around the lock down, and why its not justified by the comrades in New Zealand, that has just been published.
Those that have sought to utilise the COVID19 outbreak as a means of arguing for production to be closed down, for borders to be closed, for free movement to be ended, and so on, of course, have a hidden agenda. Indeed, for some its not even so hidden. As with Brexit, they see anything that “holds back”, or even “turns back” capitalist development as somehow beneficial to their cause.
It is the same approach as that applied by Malthus and Sismondi. Malthus argued that overproduction occurs because of underconsumption, and so argued that the answer was for the landlords and the state to consume more by taking more in rent and taxes, which would also reduce the amount that capitalists had to invest in additional capital accumulation and production. keynes nicked the idea wholesale a century later. The argument for the under consumption was taken from Sismondi, but Sismondi was concerned with the underconsumption of workers, and the plight that capital accumulation and mechanisation presented to them. So, he similarly argued for “holding back” capitalist development. The reactionary nature of both arguments was described by Marx.
The Narodniks put forward the same reactionary argument in Russia, and Lenin, as some of the quotes I have given above, was left to expose the reactionary nature of these kinds of moral socialist arguments about holding back capitalist development, rather than pushing it forward. The same arguments are put forward by the petty-bourgeois “anti-capitalists”, and “anti-imperialists”. Its seen in the Stalinist calls for “anti-monopoly alliances”, and so on. The same petty-bourgeois outlook lies behind the calls for Lexit, as well as calls for Scottish independence, i.e. a reactionary drive to reverse capitalist development rather than drive forward through it as Marx, Lenin and Trotsky argued. That is why the position of those on this reactionary wing of the Left, link up with the reactionaries of the Right in support for calls for closing borders, ending free movement, ending globalisation and so on.
Closing down the global economy, on the flimsy basis provided by COVID19, simply ensures that the catastrophe that many of these elements have been predicting unsuccessfully for years is brought about for them by extraneous causes. They are like political Creationists, or Christian Fundamentalists. Where, for Marx, social development was governed by social laws just as Darwin had set out in relation to the evolution of species, for the moral socialists, social development is simply a question of moral imperatives, of setting out desired schemas. So, if the workers fail to heed their pious wishes and pleas for them to lift up their eyes, and see the light of Socialism, they have to be punished, in the same way that God punished the people for their wicked ways and imposed the flood upon them.
Well as many humanists have pointed out, if that is the cruel nature of your God, we don’t think much of him. Similarly, if that is your vision of a Socialism that has to be imposed on people by punishing them with catastrophes as a means of leading them in to the light, I don’t think much of that Socialism either.
I’m not quite certain that it is not global capitalism that is “Closing down the global economy, on the flimsy basis provided by COVID19”. But no matter who or what is responsible for the choice of method or if the method is a result of the pauperisation of the medical infrastructure there is no reason to let COVID19 spread? Quite the opposite at I see it, we should demand more and better fight against the pandemic. Taking those countries like Cuba that started earlier and escalated faster as an example. If New Zeeland instead should become an example showing the effects of opening up – for example motivated by the losses in the tourist industri – is less important as I see it. Except of course for the New Zealanders. Those in the tourist industry most of all. Probably both in gains and losses.
You are quite right that its global capital, or at least capitalist governments that are closing down the global economy. That was not a point at issue. The point was that there are plenty on the reactionary nationalist left, as well as the reactionary nationalist right, who are not at all unhappy to see that happen, and to cheer it along.
As for demanding a better fight against it, absolutely, but the question is how. South Korea and Germany were successful with large scale test, track and isolate measures, but that is not possible once infections have gone beyond a certain level, because you simply do not have the resources to test enough people, and trace those they have been in contact with, before they have in turn infected others. But, in any case, if the Oxford University study is correct, and large proportions of populations have already been infected, and are asymptomatic, many having acquired immunity, what is the point. Indeed, testing for current infection is pretty meaningless other than in an initial test, track and isolate scenario, precisely because its only a point in time check. Someone checked and found free of infection now, could be infected within the hour!
The only type of testing for most places that currently makes sense is testing for antibodies to see what the scale of actual infection has already been, to determine actual mortality rates, and to identify people who have immunity who could resume normal activity.
So, in the meantime, the effective means of fighting the the virus is to have isolated those in the 20% at serious risk. primarily, but by no means exclusively, that is mainly the elderly in care homes and hospitals. It means ensuring that adequate PPE is provided. It also means that we should demand workers inspection of all workplaces and workplace activity so as to ensure workers health and safety. We need to esnure that production is geared to meeting the needs of fighting the virus, and the consequences of the lockdown, which means that we need workers control of production, not abstract calls for “revolution now” that in Marx’s terminology as against Guesde amounts to mere revolutionary phrasemongering.
I am very fond of nationalist left proletarian (and peasant) revolutions that win and go on defending their nation and their revolution. Like Cuba. I like them very much better than abstract calls for (world/international/supranational) revolution now.
And I must ask why you have not written anything more as motivation why New Zealand, the most successful of capitalist countries in stopping covid-19, should step down to the level of South Korea and Germany. I seem to remember from somewhere that the proof of the pudding is the eating?
“nationalist left proletarian (and peasant) revolutions that win.” Depends what you men by proletarian, and left, and winning. I don;t think the Cuban dictatorship has anything to do with socialism, and its oppression of Cuban workers certainly does not. Nor China, nor Vietnam, whose regimes led to thousands of deaths, including the deliberate murder of thousands of actually left-wing opponents, such as Ho’s murder of Vietnamese Trotskyists. All of these regimes are reactionary, because their economic nationalist ideology is reactionary.
The question for South Korea and Germany as for China and New Zealand is how long can you simply keep your economy locked down, in the case of China and new Zealand, and what damage will that do, how many deaths from other causes will it create, or how long can you continue to be able to implement a policy of intensive testing – South Korea and Germany. Because, the reality is as Giesicke and others point out, if by such means you simply prevent the development of herd immunity, the vast mass of your population remains susceptible until a vaccine is produced.
So, as in the case of China once the Wuhan lockdown was relaxed, any small number of infectious people that travelled to other areas, began to spread the virus to other areas, which then means you have to start all over again in a new area. This is what epidemiologists compare with the situation of a forest fire, whereby if the mass of forest is protected in the short term, any remaining embers, then can be blown into it, sparking a conflagration all over again.
And, once you get beyond a certain level of infection its impossible to carry on with a policy of test, track and isolate, because you can’t test or trace fast enough. Eventually, its likely, again as Giesicke and others have said that all you have done is to delay the point at which the virus gets out in larger numbers into a still susceptible population. In the meantime you have done huge economic damage, and the effect of that is to kill and damage the well-being of a much larger number of people, particularly poorer people than the virus would have done. The global economic effects of shutting down the global economy is already having devastating effects on poorer people in poorer countries already.
Meanwhile scientists now think that Copenhagen may be close to if not already having achieved herd immunity. Its main deaths as elsewhere have been in old folks homes and hospitals where, of course, those people are “locked down”. Also meanwhile, the UK which has had a policy of lockdown for a month is not only not seeing any significant fall in mortality, but is seeing it spike higher again, even just in hospitals let alone the belated care home deaths that are only added later. Latest figures show it going up to around 850 deaths a day, so its clear that even in its own terms the lock down isn’t working, and again there is a simple reason for that. The majority of those deaths again are old and sick people in hospitals and care homes, not people in the general population, which is demographically much younger and much healthier.
The average age of people dying from COVID19 in Britain is 81, and that is the average, showing just what a preponderance the elderly form of such deaths! It wasn’t rocket science. What need to be done was to isolate those in the at risk 20%, and ensure that health and social care workers got proper PPE to prevent contagion to those in hospitals and care homes.
Instead of supporting reactionary demands for closing down social activity, closing borders and so on, the labour movement should have demanded that production continued under workers control, and workers inspection, to ensure workers health and safety.
“huge economic damage, and the effect of that is to kill and damage the well-being of a much larger number of people, particularly poorer people than the virus would have done.”
To be able to predict that a lager number of poorer people is going to die from the huge economic lockdown than from the virus is no big feat. Of cause the capitalist crisis and the imperialist actions of warfare are going to cause much more debt than the coronavirus. And as there will be more people killed there will be more poorer people killed.
This is no reason though to accept that capitalism and imperialism kill more people right now by letting the coronavirus have its way?
Boffys description of the very few remaining proletarian socialist nations is of cause ultra leftist – definitely not even within reason – in todays world of globalized capitalism. As his demands, not proletarian revolution by all means, just that “the labour movement should have demanded that production continued under workers control, and workers inspection, to ensure workers health and safety” – under continued globalized capitalism where if we take Boffy seriously there is not even one single proletarian state left on globe. Great expectations!
Its perhaps an indication that herd immunity has been reached in Stockholm (not Copenhagen as I said before) that Sweden’s mortality rate seem to have taken a sudden dive falling to just 105.
One data point can be misleading, but it seems like Sweden continues to have a better record with its approach than does Britain with its lockdown.
Boffy, if you use a calendar and try to find out what causes the big variations between two distinct levels in the number of deaths in Covid-19 from Sweden, you might – just might – be able to say that the numbers probably rise to the other level Tuesday 26:th ?
“nationalist left proletarian (and peasant) revolutions that win.” Depends what you men by proletarian, and left, and winning. I don;t think the Cuban dictatorship has anything to do with socialism, and its oppression of Cuban workers certainly does not. Nor China, nor Vietnam, whose regimes led to thousands of deaths, including the deliberate murder of thousands of actually left-wing opponents, such as Ho’s murder of Vietnamese Trotskyists. All of these regimes are reactionary, because their economic nationalist ideology is reactionary.”
Alas Boffy doffs his Marxist scientific hat and dons his Trotskyist ideological hat.
”Lenin was furious with Trotsky for threatening the opponents of Boshevism with the guillotine. But he did not object to terror as such”( Service, ”Lenin” 2002 P 302).
”Trotsky attached a political commissar to keep watch over the their (Imperial army officers’) loyalty ; and for good measure he took hostages from their families who would pay with their lives for any act of treachery. But Trotsky did not stop at that . He shot political commissars too, if they disobeyed orders. He lined up regiments of deserters and carried out the Roman punishment of decimation”(Ibid. P383).
How about Russia’s greatest Marxist, A. Bogdanov?
”Bogdanov was arrested the night of 8th September…put in the Lubianka, sharing a cell with a prisoner charged with a criminal offence… after five days the conditions began to improve to approximately what they were in Kresty prison when he was last there in 1905-06…
Bogdanov’s crime? Supposedly tormenting workers’ strikes against the Bolsheviks. After five weeks he was released. In speaking of Lenin’s Bonapartist inclinations, Victor Serge (no Stalinist he!) remarked, ‘He (Lenin) has Bogdanov, his old friend and comrade, jailed because this outstanding intellect confronts him with embarrassing objections’ ” ( J.D. White, ”Red Hamlet” 2019. Pp 429-431).
It is instructive to contrast the revolutionary policies of Mao, Ho and Fidel with those of Lenin and Trotsky. In which of the four countries was ”Red Terror” the most vicious? Just as well Lenin and Trotsky did not hold any elections. The Bolsheviks would have been lucky to come third! Remember the Yanks invaded Vietnam to prevent Ho being elected president, as Eisenhower recalls in his Memoirs.
Has Boffy studied the Cuban election system? How can Boffy call it a dictatorship? It is certainly not a democracy, but it is a far nearer to it than anything envisaged by Trotsky, who in power asserted at the 9th Congress in his ”Report on the Organisation of Labour”
”The only way to attract the labour power necessary for our economic problems is to introduce compulsory labour service…for the Communist quite unquestionable ……on the basis of compulsory military service….The foundations of the militarisation of labour are those forms of state compulsion..subordinating citizens in such a measure…as the proletarian dictatorship considers itself justified in doing…..not one serious Socialist will begin to deny to the labour state the right to lay its hand upon the worker who refuses…”
Can’t see Cuban workers flocking to this Trotskyist banner any time soon!
Can we leave planet Boffy for just a second to get back to planet Earth where the issue is not abstract, not ideological purity, but concrete, and concretely historical?
I mean as Hudson said in Aliens “Maybe I haven’t been paying attention to current events, but we just got our asses kicked back there.” Translating that to the current pandemic, what it means concretely is that Britain did not initially take the lockdown path. Boorish Johnson was going with the “herd immunity” nonsense originally. What changed his path? Just the fact that the rate of infections was going to overwhelm the NHS, and overwhelm it for an extended period of time.
As it was, the late start on the lockdown did lead to overwhelming areas of the NHS; just as the late lockdown in NYC (coming 6 weeks after the WHO announced a global health emergency) led to the overwhelming of the NYC health care “system.”
What does that mean for the future? It means the nonsense of herd immunity is just that nonsense. 46% of the cases in NYC requiring hospitalization consisted of patients aged 18-44, with the lockdown. Where is the greatest incidence? Queens, the Bronx, working-class, immigrant areas where the majority are employed in the service industries where social isolation is difficult.
Does anyone, other than troll Boffy think that if the virus were allowed to run free, after isolating those above age 65, the health care system would not be overwhelmed within 7-10 days?
And that of course should be the key indicator for a rational society to “re-open” –rational automatically excluding the capitalist order. Can the health care system successfully care for the number of infections? Can the economy actually function with the number of infections expected to occur if the virus runs free? If the answers are no, and they are no in the current social situation, then that situation has to be changed.
As communists, we do not argue FOR capitalist development, because whatever lack of “development” actually exists is the result of capitalism’s intrinsic limitations. Troll Boffy can quote all the Lenin he wants, and all the Trotsky, but there is no evidence of Lenin or Trotsky cheerleading capitalist development, endorsing the construction of mines in Africa, or rubber plantations in what is now Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. or supporting the advance of capitalism in Mexico, Turkey, Serbia, just to name a few.
Of course, troll Boffy comes from a long line of pseudo Marxists, extending back to Bernstein, and of course the “Legal Marxists,” extending to and beyond Kautsky who thought the superdevelopment of capitalism would “smooth out” all those nasty conflicts that cause inter-capitalist wars.
troll Boffy’s attitude actually is but another iteration of that of Joseph Coors, the beer magnate in the US and ever ready wallet for wingnut capitalist ideologies. When meeting with African-Americans, Coors actually had the temerity to tell them that they should thank whoever it was who tore them out of Africa and brought them to the US as slaves, so they could eventually benefit from the cornucopia that is the US. Really, he said that. You can look it up, (I think). That’s where developmentalism gets you– right back to slavery and primitive accumulation.
I would say something obscene and crude to troll Boffy, but that would be so out of character for me. I mean raise my voice? Use harsh language? Disrespect and insult somebody just because he or she endorses the privation and misery that capitalism inflicts across the globe?
God knows, when you’re taking a stroll in your own Treblinka, the most important thing is to mind your manners.
Your critique of Boffy may well be right; on the other hand he may be the one who turns out to have had the best analysis. It makes no sense to call him ‘a social darwinist.’ Such merely debases the discussion. The fact is that the world’s poor are more locked out than locked down, and if I understand him aright he argues that such a policy may well cause more deaths than the disease itself, which seems a rational position.
‘World Food Programme analysis suggests an additional 130 million people around the world “could be pushed to the brink of starvation by the end of 2020” as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
David Beasley, the executive director of the World Food Programme, has warned the UN Security Council that the world is “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” ‘ (Sky News!).
I read in the ‘Guardian’ last week an article quoting the journal “Science” that one quarter of insects has disappeared due to widespread pesticide use, global warming and increasing urbanisation. Given that the Chinese and Japanese Governments are set to build many more coal-fired power stations, and both the Indian and Chinese governments aim to drive most of their peasants into the cities, I must confess to being one of Boffy’s catastrophists. it is remarkable that while Boffy sees no good in ‘nationalist left revolutions’ (e.g. ”its economy back to a state probably as bad as that which led to the famine that killed millions under Mao’s “Great Leap Forward”! Now how many millions would that be? 30 million p 403 or 60- 70 million p 486 as in A. Brown’s book ”J.D. Bernal”? As an internationalist if Boffy had consulted what Chinese leftists point out, in challenging the fascists who assert the number of 30 million, namely that if 30 million died, then tell us who in your extended family died. This usually silences them! What we had between 1950 and 1980 was the greatest leap forward in life expectancy in history. Of course given that China was the poorest country in the world at the time any economic chaos must have resulted in famine),he still sees capitalism as playing a progressive role, when it is hurling humanity towards a cataclysm. It is anachronistic to repeat the arguments Marx made against Malthus or Sismondi. That capitalism has brought many economic and social improvements is undoubtedly true, but humanity and nature form a dialectic unity, and nature can little longer sustain the capitalist mode of production. In light of the above ”on the brink of ….. multiple famines of biblical proportions” I trust we will make a break with the thesis that socialism must outproduce capitalism and demands ‘abundance,’ a metaphysical concept indeed, for how would we know when we reached ‘abundance’?
We certainly should be demanding the revolutionary transformation of society, but instead of developing programmes that address popular concerns, so much of the left has been refighting the battles of the Russian Revolution. As Marx remarked of those French socialists refighting the battles of the French Revolution such has become reactionary.
You and Boffy calling each other trolls is a sad symptom of this, and as far as Michael’s blog goes yours is the greater sin. What exactly are we to put in the place of capitalism? This is what humanity is crying out for. Materialism to be sure demands a critique of those societies that have taken the socialist road, and an evaluation of what they got right and what wrong, not their wholesale damnation against some ideal. There is too much of what we are against and too little of what we are for. ”God knows, when you’re taking a stroll in your own Treblinka, the most important thing is to mind your manners,” is wonderful rhetoric, and to be sure humanity is facing its ”Final Solution” at the hands of capitalism, but what we need are concrete suggestions for the socialist alternative.
Here is an excerpt of what I was talking about above:
”Thanks for examining this issue. And as a Chinese who was born around that time and followed this debate in Chinese forums and social media since the very beginning, I totally agree with your analysis.
I believe the death toll of the famine from 1959 to 1962 has been greatly exaggerated by pro-Western and anti-Mao intellectuals in China. The 30 million death toll number (the lower estimation number by those who tried to discredit and demonize Mao) has been controversial in Chinese social media and BBS since the very first day it was made up and circulated in Chinese language forums. The estimation was first made by a Chinese journalist who doesn’t have any formal math training beyond high school level. Many people don’t agree with this number not only because the all of the estimation methods used are questionable, but also the number doesn’t conform to people’s life experience of that time.
For example, 30 million would count as about 5% of total population of that time, together with normal death rate of the period（between 1-1.2% annually）, there should be about 8% death of population in three years, which means one death in every 13 people. But most people in Chinese forums debating this number couldn’t tell anybody they personally know of died during that period, not to mention starve to death, even most of those who ardently argue for this number couldn’t tell. I have over hundred relatives across China, none of them died during those years. My father was a mid-level official at time (building and managing a new factory) in Beijing with relative high salary, the food ration was so little for him that he had edema; still he voluntarily reduced his own salary to help country go through this period, like many communist cadres did at the time. My mother was a student at an elite college. She told me her period stop due to malnutrition, so did many of her female school mates. Even with so little food for them, my mother and her female classmates shared their food ration with their male classmates. This is widely happened and what we heard the most from people who went through that time, not the death.
In past ten year, and special since Wechat got popular in China, I asked many people how many relatives or people they personally know of died during those year. In my college Wechat group (about 120 people), only one person from poorest province said several of his closed relatives dead, another from one of hardest hit province said his old grandma dead. In my high school classmate group, only one person said his grandmother died, another said that there were death in his home village including two of his relatives, but he didn’t give total number of his relatives in the village so I couldn’t tell if that exceed 5%（in rural China, people usually have large extended family）.
Over the years, I also asked the same question to several maids of my aging relatives in Beijing. Those maids are all from poor rural countryside in China, only one from a poorest province said her grandparents dead during those three years.
My aunt was sent from Beijing to rural countryside in Henan province (one of the hardest hit province by the famine) to help, she told me that she only heard of people starved to death, didn’t witness any.”
It’s not helpful jlowrie? I’m sorry but its the plain unvarnished truth! He is objectively a social Darwinist, anyone supporting herd immunity for covid19 is. I think the great sin is your blindness towardness the wretchedness of boffy’s beliefs.
“Your critique of Boffy may well be right; on the other hand he may be the one who turns out to have had the best analysis.”
WTF? Is this supposed to be an example of what you call “dialectical thinking”?
It debases the discussion to call him a social darwinist when, given the conditions under which his myth of “herd immunity” would develop, millions of infections with thousands of fatalities, and the crash of health care systems would follow, with the toll to be taken, taken from the poor, the oppressed, the vulnerable?
What would you call it? A ‘best analysis.’
Spare us your pathetic whinging about proper manners, and the sin of not presenting a completely worked out program for the functioning of socialism. I don’t think anyone’s “fully developed programs”– including Cockshott’s– amount to anything but speculation, given the lack of a movement towards revolution. You can opine all you want on labor tokens, and the law of value, but as long as we have no movement in opposition, no “anti”- no “negative” movement to struggle for power, all that speculation is just entertainment between crashes.
If I were a rude person, I’d tell you to ****-off. But I’m not that sort of person.
And by the way, apropos of Boffy’s analysis, the BBC is reporting today that New Zealand has stopped community transmission of the virus:
I post the results of some research by three Japanese doctors.
” Results: Our posterior estimates of basic reproduction number (R) in Wuhan City, China in 2019-2020 reached values as high as 5.20 (95%CrI: 5.04-5.47) and the enhanced public health intervention after January 23rd in 2020 was associated with a declined R at 0.58 (95%CrI: 0.51-0.64), with the total number of infections (i.e. cumulative infections) estimated at 1905526 (95%CrI: 1350283-2655936) in Wuhan City, raising the proportion of infected individuals to 19.1% (95%CrI: 13.5-26.6%). We also found that most recent crude infection fatality ratio (IFR) and time-delay adjusted IFR is estimated to be 0.04% (95% CrI: 0.03-0.06%) and 0.12% (95%CrI: 0.08-0.17%), which is several orders of magnitude smaller than the crude CFR estimated at 4.19% ”
Japan itself is claiming only 400 fatalities. It is difficult to get an overall picture. The regulations seem to be dependent on local mayors. Large companies are closed, but many small companies are still operating. In some areas schools are open. I would hesitate to designate the situation as ”lockdown light.” For example adjacent to a children’s roped-off playground a pachinko parlour was open with a hundred queuing to get in, where you sit shoulder to shoulder.
”The Global South – or developing countries – presents a grimmer story. Under normal circumstances a third to half of the economy is informal, meaning not tight to any norm of formal or legal organization. They are short-term workers, daily, hourly laborers – living from hand-to-mouth, no savings, no safety nets- and in most cases no health coverage. They are left to the whims of the “market”, literally. Now the market collapsed.
There is nothing left. No work, no income, no money to pay for food, rent, medication – and the government orders them, the deprived poverty-stricken, to stay ‘home’ – ‘lockdown’ in quarantine – to protect themselves from a virus, an imposed virus that nobody sees, but the government and the media make sure you are aware – and SCARED – of its dangers, you never know whether true or false.
Confinement at ”home”? – Where is home? Home is gone. No money to pay rent. Keep social distance – don’t get together. Stay apart. The infection could spread. Fear is of the essence.
Take a city like Lima, Peru. Peru’s total population about 30 million. Lima, about eleven million – of which some 3 to 4 million live on the margins or below – in shantytowns, or worse. Daily, or hourly laborers. They live sometimes hours away from their work place. Now, there is no workplace anymore. They have no money to pay for food, transport or rent – landlords put them in streets, expel them from their properties. How can they stay in confinement? How can they take care of themselves by quarantine – lockdown – having no shelter, no food – desperately looking to earn just enough money to survive another day – and perhaps to share with their families? They can’t.
Lockdown-protection (sic-sic) is only for the rich. The poor they starve with kids and families – and quite possibly with the corona disease. They live within the circles of poverty and misery, where there is nothing to spare. Nobody has anything. Not even in solidarity. There simply is nothing. Total deprivation, caused by a total economic standstill – forced upon the world and especially the poor by evil men – and perhaps also evil women.”
From today’s Global Research. How many tens of millions to perish? But that is not social darwinism?
”I don’t think anyone’s “fully developed programs”– including Cockshott’s– amount to anything but speculation, given the lack of a movement towards revolution. You can opine all you want on labor tokens, and the law of value, but as long as we have no movement in opposition, no “anti”- no “negative” movement to struggle for power, all that speculation is just entertainment between crashes.” Okay tell me your programme? Give us details.it’s not the first time I have urged.
”If I were a rude person, I’d tell you to ****-off. ” Don’t think so. You are at a safe distance.I might have mentioned that I spent nine years in Japan – should have added, studying martial arts!. But maybe you can catch bullets in your teeth!
I read last week an article by a comrade writing that while he admired the great success of the Cuban Government in addressing the Coronavirus epidemic, he could not forget that Fidel had been a dictator. Perhaps the great success of Cuban medicine owes not a little to the policies of Fidel? Such a comment demonstrates the extent that bourgeois ideology still exercises on even self designated Marxists. All states are dictatorships. The correct designation for Fidel is tyrant. Originally this concept did not bear the negative connotations it now has, because tyrants might well be on the side of the poor, as with Fidel, Lenin, Mao, Ho etc. The problem is as Trotsky most presciently saw in his “Our Political Tasks” with Leninism and its thesis of the leading role of the party, which substitutes itself for the class “the party organisation substituting itself for the party, the Central Committee substituting itself for the party organisation and finally the dictator substituting himself for the Central Committee” ( New Park Publications P 77). Then the Dictator or more correctly the Tyrant dies, and sooner (China) or later (Russia) the Party proceeds to reconstruct the capitalist order, for a party is an oligarchy. The antidote is democracy, where the government is selected by lot and serve for only one year before returning to their old job: no professional politicians! It is fallacious to counterpose dictatorship to democracy. Otherwise one ends up with formulations like North Korea is a ‘stalinist dictatorship’ while South Korea os ‘a bourgeois democracy.’ So let us bomb North Korea again to bring it ”democracy.” Both countries are oligarchies: try to establish socialism in South Korea and you’ll get another Gwangyu massacre, and be tortured and raped by the secret police. It was because of this uprising that the Korean state decided to moderate its oppression and make some concessions the better to consolidate its rule.
The correct theory of democracy allows the communist movement to counterpose democracy to capitalist oligarchy. The concept of oligarchy was little used some 35 odd years ago outside South America when Cockshott first began to propagate real democracy as the cornerstone of a Marxist Programme. Now the concept is becoming ever more popular as citizens realise that they live in oligarchies.
Of course one might assert with Anti-capital ”I don’t think anyone’s “fully developed programs”– including Cockshott’s– amount to anything but speculation,”. However that may be, one notes that Cockshott has been invited by the Venezuelan Government , the Vietnamese Workers’ Party and the Chinese Communist Party to give talks on his ‘speculations,’ though as one Chinese comrade advised him ”Be careful what you say or you won’t be invited back.” Pity Anti-capital wasn’t there. He could have told Cockshott ”****-off”!
No more programmes, please, we’re ”marxists”! Karl, why did you make your weary way Monday to Saturday, 8am till 7pm, to the British Museum, except on those days when you were obliged to pawn your coat? Long Live vacuous vituperative banalities!
I will not comment on the science directly, as I’ve seen my fill of instant amateur “experts”. All we know is that C-19 is less deadly (has a lower reproduction rate) than flu, but is more contagious (R0) than flu. If the difference in contagion rate is > than inverse difference in reproduction rate, then C-19 kills more in a given seasonal time frame.
We don’t know: how long immunity lasts, so if it is a year, and in that year we don’t have a working vaccine in full mass production, we start all over again. Just like with flu, with immunity ~6 months. Anybody the feigns to “know” C-19 immunity is a liar. So don’t even try.
We don’t know: The true R0. All we know that it is faster than flu. Let’s hope it doesn’t have the mutability of the human coronavirus, the highly contagious common cold.
Those are the main unknowns. As for the “vulnerable” in a country like the USA (and not only this decrepit country), these also include those with hypertension, obviously pulmonary conditions such as asthma, and heart and circulatory disease. These in turn are often consequences of type 2 diabetes, and some 40% of the US population is either obese or very overweight. Many of these are productive workers, so the economic hit was unavoidable here.
As for Sweden, this is a small privileged country with a social (democratic) infrastructure much stronger than the USA. 60% unionization rate, and a healthier, better educated and less inequality. Hence the US Right has stopped touting Sweden. The right-wing Swedish government is simply exploiting existing social-democratic structure. They’ve also made a calculated gamble that though they will have higher than average mortality rates, but not the max, relying on the “resiliency” of Swedish society. The State is a conscious “Death Panel” here.
Check out Japan as well. They have defacto stumbled along the Swedish road, though that may be ending as Japan’s absolute deaths exceed S. Korea.
The political bottom line is this: those who favor herd immunity, without knowing what that really means, are gambling that contagion rate is <= than inverse difference in reproduction rate. They want to "fix" capitalist society, but that is the responsibility of the bourgeoisie, not us. They are willing to make this gamble because the alternative is to confront the class struggle. If you are a working class socialist, that means fighting for the working class and its interests.
For the fact is, at least in the US, the pandemic panic has flashed a revealing x-ray image of the anatomy of that society before hundreds of millions, and internationally. The US capitalists, liberal and conservative, favor the "shutdown" as first, "disaster capitalist" piracy. This is now in full swing, and McConnells' "bankruptcy" proposition was just the latest new pirate frontier to be opened. Herd Immunists don't want to confront the financial and commercial pirates while they must operate presently in the full glare of the "Corona", they want to "fix society".
The US capitalists callously shrug their shoulders over creating a totally unnecessary mass unemployment, now heading toward 25 million and counting, even as their commercial media monopolies give excessive exposure to Meckler's Koch-aligned and Mercer-seeded astroturf demos [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_Meckler], and of course, Trump. It's presented as a "force of nature", as if viruses issued pink slips. Hence the bourgeoisie favor "shutdown" on condition that they are not made to pay.
The mass unemployment is a catastrophe, on top of which renters will be expected to "pay" 2-3 months back rent, when capital sounds the "all clear" at a time of its own convenience.
Are all these unemployed expected to enter the "labor market" all at once? The smaller capitals that traditionally employ this sector of the working class will surely exploit this to drive down their wages, crying "poverty because of the shutdown".
Finally, the smaller and weaker capitals that fail will be fodder for a new cycle of centralization of US capital, already ridden with monopoly. That will be the next cycle of plunder, together with use of the pandemic to attack the working class.
The questions of the mass unemployment, the food lines due to the 5 week delays in unemployment checks, the "back rent", the failure to protect workers in essential food industries, transport and in hospitals, and many others, are the immediate ground to organize the working class counter-offensive. Unfortunately, the Left had been disappointingly unfocused and confused on the meaning of this situation. Both the herd immunists and the Left that meekly follows bourgeois state edits seek to avoid the drastically sharpening class struggle. The only difference is that the herd immunists don't care if more workers die. And workers disproportionately die in this pandemic.
It should be obvious that we should want a planned reopening that puts worker protection first. That means reopening must be in the hands of workers who can then decide if they want a virus propagating at work. If they decide against the virus, then they must be supplied with full protection of their specification. Those protections must be extended to the transport sector to ensure that workers can move freely. The remainder of space can be left "open" to rely on individual protection.
Boffy isn’t just bad now, he’s getting weird. He’s leaning in to conspiracy theory now, I wonder how long till he discovers Agenda 2030 and the Illuminati. The problem is actually rather amusing when you think about it, you see he actually has a very optimistic view of socialism in which we peacefully attain it out of a prosperous capitalism. That of course is at major variance with reality and that’s the thing, it doesn’t matter how good your intentions are when you start denying reality things can get, well they get bad and weird.
Here’s an early chinese study that found only one outdoor case of transmission between two individuals out of 7,234 individuals. All other transmissions occurred indoors. Regardless of a shutdown, more indoor time equates to more spread, suggesting the best option is a reduction of indoor activity while encouraging outdoor activity while social-distancing.
Click to access 2020.04.04.20053058v1.full.pdf
I found this on Paul Beckwith’s youtube channel, who mainly reviews the latest climate science and its global impact. Here’s the video (starting at 5 minutes): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfcaizO9JTA.
Let us try and focus this important discussion. Anyone seeking to build a workers’ movement and develop the tactics of struggle needed to advance it, must engage in risk assessment. In effect this is what we are doing by trying to calculate, on the basis of the emerging evidence, how serious this virus is (even though we may appear to be armchair epidemiological wannabees). But tactics depend on a rounded assessment, which in this case also includes the general health of the population and the capacity of the health services. Contrary to what has been said here, the initial response was not lockdown, but going for herd immunity by means of minimum measures to slow down spread. Bless them, Trump and Johnson thought they could do a Stockholm before realising what austerity and inequality had done to the general health of their populations.
For me the intrinsic qualities of the virus are less important to what the virus has highlighted: the level of illness created by inequality and a medical model that thrives on this chronic illness. Our future society will be built on the legacy bequeathed by capitalism both positive and negative. The negative inheritance are societies where the majority of those who have expended half their lives are ill, that is they have a metabolic dysfunction or inflammatory condition. At its most extreme we consider the 300 million stunted Indians due to their malnutrition prior to, during pregnancy and the 9 months after. Due to epigenomics this will take generations to work out of the human race.
The political world will be different after this virus has settled one way or another, probably with tens of millions dead, the majority from hunger. And as always, it will be the working class who will have to pay back all the fiscal and bank largesse during the pandemic. So too the possibility of war between China and the USA. The neo-cons around the world are gearing up. It has gone beyond blaming China, to holding it responsible for the losses to capital this pandemic has caused. Thus, the objective conditions for a fundamental political jolt are rapidly maturing. That is why it is entirely correct, even if one were a Narodnick, to call for revolution.
Plenty of crises – crises of plenty
The lockdown of much of the inhabitants in the most developed capitalistic states makes many things evident. But let’s take the most obvious first. The care and feed of people living in those richest countries can go on without the work of most of the workforce. This makes it evident that the socially necessary work for satisfying the material needs of the population is not big enough to sustain capitalism.
It is possible that this is not true if one widens the view to all countries. There might be some time left for capitalist economy if we also even out the need to labor between north and south.
This could be called the crisis of productivity (material needs).
On the next level, the continuing lockdown shows us that the profits that can be sucked out by the capital that is used in the production, transport and distribution of material goods is far from enough to sustain monopoly-finance-capitalism. Even monopoly finance capital – up to and including the central banks – has to be saved by massive transfers of money created by the state, money that are secured by continuous taxes from the working class. Not by capitalistic profiting.
To obtain the necessary volume of surplus value, capital must monopolize all sources, including taxes, and then concentrate this total surplus value by monopolistic finance to distill in the very top of the process the necessary profit measured as part of the used capital – to be able to survive in the competition.
This is the crisis of the diminishing profit quota (material products).
There is also of course the problem of realizing the surplus value from all the produced goods. When the proletarians get less wages they can’t buy all of the growing volume produced. This for a time can be solved by lending money for consumption. But debts cannot grow indefinitely. Not even when the loans are secured by real estate as homes. That was proved in the New York Stock Exchange crises 2007/8.
This was a crisis of overproduction of loans (secured by real estate)
Now the loans have grown and escalated from being necessary for proletarians in need of housing to small and medium businesses in needing to pay big enough dividends to their creditors. And the crises has moved upwards from overproduction of loans to home owners to overproduction of loans to small and middle business.
This can be called a crisis of overproduction of loans (secured by future profits).
The concentration of capital to finance-monopoly-capital has been held back for something like a hundred years by the victories for proletarian socialism. Since the last long depression in de end of the 1870-ies. Those victories have forced capitalism to develop beyond its own limitations and to act more civilized and better controlled than it otherwise could have.
Now that the socialist bloc is no more, and even the reformist labor movement has been passivized there is nothing within human society competing with capitalism as a world system.
So there also is a sort of crises from the lack of a common proletarian socialist enemy.
Then there is the crises vis à vis climate. The exploitation of nature is approaching a level where the niche for human life is lost. Not by our own human emissions, but by the emissions from fossil energy. The extreme consumption of energy has been necessary to keep the volume of production growing faster than the growing population which in its turn has been necessary to keep the volume of surplus value growing without continuous warfare against the proletarians. Capitalism has instead of war against proletariat on average been able to bring each new generation in the center a better life than the one before. But this ability is no more. One way or the other there will be an end to capitalism as we know it.
Globalized capitalism might be transformed to a more classic Roman class society, where the work is done not by the proletarians but by slaves. Slaves taken by warfare. There is a certain likeness in the creation and use of refugees today.
The transformation from the capitalist model might take another direction. As long there is life there is hope. And the several crises for capitalism at the same time might give opportunities for proletarian revolutions. It already has, in the backlands and periphery of the most capitalistically and imperialistically advanced state. Every type of weakening of the imperialistic center make better their chances. But of course the most effective weakening is proletarian class struggle.
Or there is no social revolution but continued business as usual. Maybe with the addition of a slave-class. Human society will then last at maximum for something like 100 years more. And then there will be hothouse earth.
So what about the covid-19 crisis? It might in itself create changes comparable to the oil-crisis in the 1970. A small lessening of the speed in the growth of CO2 in the atmosphere. And of course covid-19 will cause a lot of dying. Mostly among proletarians. But capitalism is built to create a surplus population of proletarians. And this is amplified by NAIRU-policies. Covid-19 might create the circumstances for a little higher wages for the survivors. But on the other hand the lockdown can end as a general lockout/capital strike.
Here’s something interesting from the New York Times of 4/25:
“Officials in Sweden, which has resisted a lockdown, are talking tougher. The interior minister threatened to close bars and restaurants that do not follow social distancing recommendations. “These guidelines must be followed,” said the interior minister, Mikael Damberg. “Otherwise operations will be closed.”
And here’s something that important to keep in mind when the social darwinists beat the “herd immunity” drum and assure us that the covid19 mortality rates, and serious illness rates are statistically insignificant—- 46 percent of the hospitalizations in NYC for covid19 are for individuals in the 18 years to 44 years old group.
There are 3.8 million New Yorkers between the ages of 18-44. Clearly without a lockdown, given the general state of lack of preparation, the lack of sufficient hospital capacity, personnel, and protective personal equipment, the rate of increase of infections with serious consequence in this age group alone will overwhelm ICU capacity of the medical system.
Another one against the herd immunists. Maybe we can learn something from the people we mercilessly bombed and slaughtered with abandon. Or at least buy up their surplus PPE production, because the USA will need it.
“Vietnam May Have the Most Effective Response to Covid-19”
Note that unlike the herd immunist surrender monkeys, Vietnam fully intends to repel the invader again, and is almost certainly on a better footing to do so now than in January. After all, they have practice mobilizing for years to repel the American virus, though at infinitely greater cost.
So it is quite viable to not just let workers die.
Boffy, you say
“Socialism is inconceivable without large-scale capitalist engineering”
Q. what level of “large-scale capitalist engineering” makes socialism conceivable?
You answer using Lenin, that the level is found in Germany under “ Junker-bourgeois imperialism”, “the last word” in modern large-scale capitalist engineering and planned organisation where presumably the “petty-bourgeois producers, and larger capitalist producers that were not yet at the stage of forming cartels, and so on have been supplanted, leaving “the sum total of the conditions necessary for socialism.” (Lenin I think but unclear with loss of quotation marks). So, Lenin is saying that socialism was possible in Germany at that point!
Here, I have to assume that you are in agreement given your use of Lenin as an authority on the matter. Yet, with a further century of development of “large-scale capitalist engineering” your position is also that the time has not arrived for ‘a revolutionary transformation.”
To add to the confusion, you say we need to await the “latest discoveries of modern science”, i.e keep kicking the can down the road until we have exhausted the search for the ‘latest discoveries’, which means never never land. Your position seems absurd or I am badly misreading you.
Can you explain the apparent contradiction in your position and perhaps the discovery in science that will trigger the transformation to socialism?
Between 4/15 and 4/29, according to WHO:
Total cases: Sweden +72%; Denmark +31%; Norge +16%
Daily rate new case: Sw +40%; Dk -20%; No -9%
Total Deaths: Sw +130%; Dk +46%; No. +56%
People say that the COVID death rate is 0.40% ! This was circulated in several news channels also !
Me Thinks the death rate is beyond 10%,on aggregate count,and for some nations it is way beyond.
As per – https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/#countries = there are 7.5 million cases and 420000 dead.Simple numerics place it at proximating 6%.
Wrong me says ! dindooohindoo
India,Brazil,Russia have seen a sharp rise in cases,in the last 30 days.40% of their cases came in the last 30 days,and for India,it will worsen exponentially.If you see the kill data of the RIB in the BRICS – it has increased sharply,in the last 30 days (which proves my thesis)
People dying today,were in the quasi morgue (hospitals) 30-60 days ago.Let us take it,at 30 days.
So we rewind to 30 days ago,and exclude the jump in RIB of BRICS,in the last 30 days. So we have say 4.5 million cases and the kill quant is 420,000
Rate proximates 10% ! But that is also wrong,as the infected are NOT solely on RTPCR mode.Many nations cannot afford it and are doing antibody tests.An antibody positive may be RTPCR negative,and the vice versa is less likely. If you exclude these specimens from the infected tally,the % rises further.
Also have to exclude the recovered cases – as those with immunity will recover in 30 days – AS THE VIRUS was DESIGNED THAT WAY.Unlike HIV and Cancer – where patients are NOT likely to recover- on a generic mode.But those who recover from COVID -WILL (in part) come back again,and then die.That will double count the infected cases.Hence,we exclude the recovered cases (which are 4 million,as per site stated above).
These Johnnies who recouped,may have been infected,say 15 days ago – and if you rewind to 15 days ago,and deduct the spike in the RIBs of the BRICS – you will have an infected base of,say 6 million.If you remove the recovered (4 million),and then ratio it,to the dead of 420000 – then you have a kill ratio of 21% !
Cannot compare the dead to the entire population – as of this instant – as it would include billions of aged,morbid and asymptomatics – who will get infected very soon.
If we take a 1 year horizon – then post the 1 year – you could take the global population – as that by that time,the virus would have had enough time,to spread,evolve and mutate (across the latitudes and seasons).At that stage,a ratio w.r.t the population,would be a meaningful statistic – to benchmark intra and inter se,with other diseases.By that time the death rate will mature and the complete breakdown of the health imfrastructure will be apparent (to explain the future geometric rise)