[Published in Communism #14, July 2021.]
The irruption of the COVID-19 pandemics in 2020 was a crash test for all the revolutionaries in the world. Would they be able to face a global crisis, to understand it and give the keys to face it adequately? Or was it only possible for them to accompany the events?
It depended of course of what has been done in the period before the crisis. If the revolutionaries understood how the productive forces grew since 1989, how nature was under attack, how the animals were enslaved at industrial levels all over the world… then they were able to understand how it came to the crisis and which sense it carries.
If the revolutionaries were in the fiction that capitalism was in crisis since ten, twenty, fifty, hundred years… then they would be not able to understand that something new happened, something with a qualitative leap.
A good example for it is expressed by the Brazilian review A Nova Democracia. It is even absolutely typical, in the sense that such a point of view was the one of most of the movements defining themselves as marxist-leninists or even maoists. They just failed to understand what happened.
A Nova Democracia’s article “World Economy towards Recession: CORONAVIRUS CONCEALS THE IMPERIALISM CRISIS”, published in March 2020, expresses quite purely this deep misunderstanding. Here is what it says:
“The industrial production and the stock exchange of the financial market have collapsed at the beginning of March in the whole world. The trigger, according to the worldwide press monopoly, is the coronavirus expansion.
However, it is actually the crisis of relative overproduction of capital.
The coronavirus itself could not cause such an impact in the world economy. The reason of stoppage of the capital reproduction is the capital itself.
The portal Crítica da Economia, quoting a newspaper of the reaction, has observed that the coronavirus nowadays is less lethal than the flu: “Internal data of the World Health Organization (WHO) show that, in 2020, the simple seasonal flu has already caused more casualties (76.537 deaths) than the new coronavirus (2.812 deaths); that is, our well-known and familiar flu has already killed 2.720% more people than the misterious new coronavirus”.”
In July 2021, such a discourse is of course easily appearing as pathetic. Nevertheless, it was quite common at the time or even a rule for ultra-leftists. The pandemics would be overestimated by the states to put strict laws, it would be nearly a hoax of counter-revolutionary nature.
It is not even a misjudgment of the crisis, it is a negation of it, even at the sanitary level. And the reason for that is a belief considering that the world economy is organized by some monopolies and world finance, that capitalism “thinks”, is able to “act” in a calculated manner, etc.
A Nova Democracia expresses perfectly this conception, where the crisis consists in the overproduction of capital, which would choke the economy and the world. The article says :
“The occurrence of the coronavirus is just a fact that aggravates the economy. However, behind this fact there is already a relative overproduction of the latent capital.
The crisis of overproduction of relative capital occurs when the capital production extrapolates the consumption capacity of the society defined, ultimately, by the contradiction between the social character of production and the capitalist appropriation of the product.
To get an idea of it, the unemployment rate in the USA reached, on October, 2019, a low record of 3,5%. It amounts practically to “full employment”. It was the lowest rate for the last 50 years, resulting of the interest rate that propels the credit for the production.
However, in October, the creation of new workstations in the industry has decreased for the first time in six months, although the production has increased 1,1% in November. It is a huge increase of the global production that grows disproportionately to the addition of the capacity of worldwide consumption.
The overproduction crisis is the inevitable consequence. Proof of this is that all Yankee economists foresee that the economy will slow down in the short run, i. e., it will not find markets to continue the expansion.”
It is of course totally wrong to understand capitalism in terms of bookkeeping, with inputs and outputs. If what says A Nova Democracia is true, than capitalism would never grow or even never exist, because there is always a discrepancy between production and consumption… Especially at the beginning of capitalism, with primitive accumulation, a key topic.
Of course, concerning the sanitary aspect, A Nova Democracia totally changed its point of view afterwards, saying for example in April 2020 in the article “THE 21st CENTURY AND THE MEDIOEVO [middle age]: The historical and political failure of the imperialist system”:
“It is a sinister revival of almost ancient times of the Humankind history as, in the middle of the 15th century, the “Black Death” occurred, sweeping across Europe and Asia, killing 200 million people; or even with the Spanish flu epidemic and the deaths of tens of millions persons.”
But the same article explains also, in a rather shocking manner:
“As a result either of a natural biological evolution or a machination of the Yankee imperialism ( a hypothesis that one cannot ignore at all since it fits the criminal Pentagon “war games”, a fervent believer of Malthusianism *), the coronavirus acts as an invisible small atomic bombs in another form of a world war.
One cannot forget the atomic artifacts that the imperialist States and some of their lackeys possess, in large scale and great quantity in their arsenals, aiming at intimidating permanently the Earth peoples.
The issue is, with the pandemic the governments negligence they will eliminate populations considered by them as surplus populations, especially the aging and sick people.
On the whole, it means to destroy productive forces to justify new and miraculous “Marshall plans” to recover the economy for a new expansion.
The negligence is intentional, resulting of the imperialism nature but twisted with adjustable doses of dramatization by the press monopolies – Globo Network, a leader in Brasil – to mitigate the masses uprising.
It is the imperialism law: the crisis in the system is only partially eradicated with the destruction of the productive forces, killing of workers and “surplus” populations, concentration/ centralization of capital and the conquering of new markets ( war with weapons arsenal).”
We have a double problem, which is typical. The first one is to consider that capitalism has an overview on itself. The second one is to affirm that capitalism can “choose” to destroy the “surplus” of commodities and workers. Nothing about it is true, of course.
And to understand that, only a small aspect has to be see: the question of the aging and the sick people. If we take the imperialist countries, it is a long time now that these aging and sick people a integrated in capitalism. Since 1945, and now in a very important way, they are an element of capitalism, as consumers of products directly aimed at them.
To take two examples pretty clear, we can see that Germany import proletarians from the Eastern countries in order to use them as cheap particular help for old people, and that Portugal has made low taxes for the French pensioners.
Of course, A Nova Democracia can’t see that. In its vision, world capitalism consists in finance, and finance only. There is no capitalist mode of production any more, but world masses against a small bunch of super rich people. A Nova Democracia so just can’t see the evolution of everyday of life, the progress of capitalism, its systematization at all levels of life.
And this is the key. Either there is the understanding that capitalism developed itself since 1989, bringing the world to a new step, with a new general crisis. Or there is the following of events, in the belief that there was no evolution of the productive forces since the 1930’s.