The ramping coronavirus pandemic is questioning capitalism as at least a billion people around the world are confined in homes. Millions of workers have already lost jobs. A bleak future waits for them. Governments are struggling to face the situation. The United States, considered the most powerful, the most resourceful, the wisest and the smartest state, is actually in a state of mess. About 150 countries now have more than 300,000 confirmed cases, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Some Spanish intensive care units are close to their limit.
An AFP news-report from Rome said: Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday.
The pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries. Countries in continents have closed down borders. France has deployed helicopters and drones to keep people within their homes. Following China’s measures, people in India have voluntarily followed a 14-hours-curfew – stay in home. Narendra Modi, the PM of the country, proposed the self-imposed-curfew.
Factories in Europe and the US have braced hardest hit since the WWII. Millions of workers have turned unemployed. More workers, it’s apprehended, will be unemployed. That means, billions of people are facing/going to face uncertainty and hardship. Lives, trade, travel around the world is disrupted at unprecedented level.
According to a leading investor, the world stock market has already lost $12 trillion. Governments, from Australia to Britain to the US, are doling out emergency stimulus packages. These are, in total, trillions of dollars.
According to an NBC News survey with more than 250 health care professionals across the US, there is a dire need for personal protective equipment in the US hospitals. One major challenge for health care professionals is the lack of available testing kits. “I don’t feel like my hospital is failing us. It’s the whole system that’s failing us”, said a nurse in Michigan.
A March 22-AP news report said:
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the government is “literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies.”
Health care workers from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis sought donations of protective equipment. Staff at a Detroit hospital began creating homemade facemasks for workers. Rural hospitals are strained. In the farming community of Vidalia, Georgia, medical staffers at emergency room are wearing facemasks for their entire 12-hour shifts.
The pandemic has not spared the world’s mightiest military machine. An AFP news report datelined Washington, March 21, 2020 said: The coronavirus is handicapping the world’s most powerful military. The US’ crucial exercises are cancelled, and soldiers are confined to bases. “The Pentagon this week admitted that the global pandemic is a formidable foe like none other that it has confronted. Proud of its ability to project force to the furthest corners of the globe and to react instantly to any threat, the US military has been forced to curb operations to ensure its two million-plus active and reserve fighting force. The usually crowded halls of the Pentagon have thinned, with thousands told to work from home – a shift that has introduced new security challenges. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and his deputy secretary, David Norquist, and their staffs are no longer meeting in person, to ensure at least one national leader and his team stays healthy. Esper said on Fox News: ‘Mission number one for the United States military remains ensuring that the American people, the country and our interests abroad are protected.’ But regular operations have been disrupted. The Iraqi Security Forces have suspended all training. The US Centcom has pulled back troops from some of the smaller bases in Iraq. The US has been forced to suspend key joint exercises and war games in South Korea, Africa and elsewhere. On March 11, the Pentagon slashed its participation in what would have been the largest joint US-Europe war games in 25 years. The exercise has now been cut by more than half. At its hundreds of military bases across the country and around the world, US forces are prevented from traveling. The US army’s recruitment of new troops is being hampered. Now, it’s “basically, virtual recruiting”, said General James McConville, the US Army chief of staff.
Nevertheless, the Empire’s operations are not fully halted. A March 22-news report said: The Trump administration is ramping up construction of its multibillion-dollar border wall, although the US is facing widespread shortages in testing kits and essential protective equipment like masks, gowns and gloves while medical experts warn of insufficient ventilators and hospital beds to cope with the inevitable surge in sick patients.
There’re the prison populations in countries including Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, the US. The US harbors the largest prison-population in the world. There’re the refugees/internally displaced populations in Syria, Turkey, Jordan, Bangladesh including the Rohingyas. How much facility, bare minimum facility – hand washing soap and clean water – do these millions have? A news report have already said: Syrian refugees are facing a dangerous situation in the face of the pandemic. Gaza, the world’s biggest open-air prison, has already come across the danger: The coronavirus has appeared there.
This, in brief, is the appearance of today’s coronavirus pandemic-hit world dominated by imperialist order. Nevertheless, this isn’t the entire reality. There’s another reality: Not all is bad news.
Wuhan, the Chinese city with the first devastating experience of the virus, went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases of the virus.
According to the WHO, a vast majority of people recover from the virus. People with mild illness recover in about two weeks while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.
Countries including China and Cuba have already begun administering drugs to fight the virus creating havoc.
Dozens of teams of scientists in countries are working round-the-clock to devise necessary drugs. It’s a war being waged by science against the pandemic while politicians have wasted a lot of valuable time and resource to get prepared for fighting the pandemic.
A few of the newly innovated drugs including one in the US have already been administered to test side effects. The US Federal Drug Administration has already given approval to test a drug, which if successful can be administered at the point of care, and can bring results within a very short time.
A drug Cuba was producing since long is being administered in China while at least a dozen countries have sought the drug from Cuba. Fidel Castro, in the last century, initiated the research institute that innovated the drug.
China has already sent tons of medical equipment and medical teams to countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. One of these countries is Serbia. The president of Serbia has written: The EU unity is on paper, only China can help.
The Serb President sought medical equipment to fight the virus in his country with a population of 7.5 million. But he was denied. Italy had the same experience: Refusal by the EU countries to share their medical equipments. The EU members said: We don’t like to share our stock of equipment.
China has also delivered more than 100 tons of supplies to the Czech Republic, to a number of African countries.
Cuba, the geographically very small Latin American country facing the longest-ever sanction in human history imposed by the strongest-ever power on the earth, sent medical teams – “Armies of White Robes” – to countries including Italy, one of the richest countries in the world, a member of G-7 and NATO, and a party to the destruction of Gaddafi-run Libya, to combat coronavirus.
Cuba has already sent more than a hundred doctors and nurses to Grenada, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Surinam and Venezuela.
A Reuters report said: Leonardo Fernandez, 68, A Cuban doctor, member of the medical mission to Cuba has said before departure for Italy: “We are all afraid but we have a revolutionary duty to fulfill, so we take out fear and put it to one side. He who says he is not afraid is a superhero, but we are not superheros, we are revolutionary doctors.” The Italy mission is his eighth similar mission abroad. He was in Liberia in the fight against Ebola. Another member, 64 y/o, Graciliano Diaz, said: “We are going to fulfill an honorable task, based on the principle of solidarity.”
Britain has already thanked Cuba last week for allowing a British cruise ship that had been turned away by several Caribbean ports to dock on the island and for enabling the evacuation of the more than 600 passengers onboard. And, the countries that turned the British cruise ship are members of the British Commonwealth – “glory” of a crown or touch of a royal sword.
Thousands of Cuban doctors and medicine students are going door-to-door monitoring communities in Cuba.
Russia’s Defense Ministry informed: It was ready to fly mobile medical teams and disinfection equipment to Italy.
However, questions haunt.
An AFP news report dispatched from the UN headquarters has questioned: With the great powers focused intently on the pandemic, will armed conflicts across the world decrease in severity or intensify? Experts and diplomats at the UN say there is a serious risk of the latter.
The experts and diplomats have pointed out a number of reasons. Their analyses also vary. But, the main aspect went unattended: Imperialism. As long as imperialism is there on this earth, war shall not vanish. Epidemic or pandemic can’t refrain imperialism from waging war, can’t chain it as war is its permanent feature, one condition for its existence. The money-equation is the mirror: The money, time and labor spent behind wars, celebrations, image building is much higher than the money allocated for public health care, for research on public health safety and ecology. The time the powerful spend for self-eulogizing takes away the time required for fighting for public health. It’s a capitalist case. The pandemic has once again exposed this fact. The sad line is the intolerable fact: It’s the people, especially, the working people paying most, losing jobs, losing opportunity in the sector the mainstream lovingly calls the informal sector for daily earning. Their earning is slashed. They don’t know what to do. The hapless workers leaving Delhi days ago in hundreds for their rural homes in Bihar and the eastern UP in India are the living evidence. They, just, have been told by their maaleeks, owners of small enterprises: Leave, the business is closed. The low-earning, lower-middle class families having no opportunity to “earn” bribe? An unemployed journalist working with a small newspaper? A madrasa, Islamic religious school, teacher? How many of them could buy essentials including soaps at the middle of the month? Many of them go without salary for months. How much water and how many hand washing soaps the Dhaka or Chittagong slum-dwellers in Bangladesh or a slum-dweller in Manila or Karachi can afford? In their slums, social distancing? A fairytale in a modern, capitalist society that uses billions of dollars to rob all resources from a world that the people own!
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.