On March 16th, President Trump infamously dubbed COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” Supporters of the President defended these comments by claiming the new name is simply “the truth.” The real truth is that this misnomer was a hasty attempt to distract us from the utter failure of the capitalist system to deal with the current crisis. It represents a blatant attempt to not only blame the epidemic on the Chinese government which – after an initial cover-up – has been able to mobilize the remnants of its centralized economy, inherited from the former Stalinist regime, to organize a more effective response to the pandemic than the US. Trump is also encouraging racist and xenophobic sentiments amongst his base in order to divide sections of the working class. When crises in the capitalist system threaten to bring working people together, history has shown time and time again that the ruling class will feverishly stoke other divisions such as racism, sexism and other forms of oppression within the working class to prevent our unity!
While Trump has since stepped away from the “Chinese virus” language, the damage has been done. Even before Trump’s comments there was an uptick in harassment against Asian-American people, undoubtedly in response to ongoing narratives of “yellow peril” propagated constantly by the capitalist media, which have only increased since the first reports of the Coronavirus. As the pandemic has progressed we have seen a sharp spike in the use of anti-Chinese slurs online and 1,135 reported incidents of harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over a 2-week period, according to Stop AAPI Hate. Incidents of Asian Americans being physically attacked have gone viral recently such as an Asian woman who was attacked in the NYC subway and a Chinese-American man who was berated and attacked at a NYC bus stop in front of his 10-year-old son. Racism is one of the many tools that the capitalist class resorts to in order to divide the working class and prevent a unified worker’s movement.
This pandemic requires a coordinated global response, but the chaos of capitalist markets has left the system internationally paralyzed and incapable of engaging in the cooperative planning needed to contain the virus. We see the failure of the “free market” demonstrated by the lack of any serious investment into researching vaccines for SARS (a similar virus to COVID-19) after the epidemic in 2002-2003 due to it not being immediately profitable. If a SARS vaccine existed, it would likely give some protection against the spread of COVID-19 and at the very least would allow for expediting the process of developing a new vaccine. Furthermore, the current vaccine research for COVD-19 is largely confined to private pharmaceutical and biotech companies that are competing to be the first to produce and patent the vaccine to profit off the global crisis, rather than cooperating and pooling their knowledge!
The free market has utterly failed to create any coherent pandemic response plan, despite every infectious disease expert and scientists warning consistently for over a decade that such a pandemic was inevitable. This has resulted in the extreme shortages of ventilators and PPE due to profit-driven production. It has directly caused the disproportionate suffering of indigenous peoples and people of color who have been denied sufficient healthcare funding or resources. According to The Guardian, early data indicates that Native Americans, black and Latinx communities are all disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, and are at increased risk of dying from the disease due to enduring history of “unequal access to healthcare, clean water and nutritious food.” Additionally, many state health departments are excluding Native Americans from COVD-19 demographic data, effectively erasing the evidence of the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on already vulnerable communities. The free market considers it logical to compel farmers to throw away food to artificially raise prices, all while millions of families struggle with hunger.
Were any of these problems caused by China? Did China impose decades of austerity measures on U.S. healthcare infrastructure and attack our rights to organize for sick leave and universal healthcare? The real culprit of this severe crisis is the U.S. ruling class in their neverending crusade to deny working people a decent standard of living. The peculiar state capitalist government of China, led by the misnamed “Communist” Chinese Party, is by no means innocent in the origins of COVID-19’s emergence, but it is the global capitalist system, not just China, that bears the fault for the extreme mismanagement of the pandemic.
In its greatest display of grotesque injustice since the crash of 2007/08, the Coronavirus pandemic has demonstrated the systemic cruelty of an economy and society based on producing profit for a few rather than meeting the human needs of all. The mouthpieces of capitalist power in the United States have predictably turned to overtly racist rhetoric to hide the fact that their economic system is collapsing before our eyes. In order to win the world for the working class and fight the inherent violence of capitalism, we must build a mass multi-racial movement uniting all sectors of the diverse working class against all forms of bigotry and exploitation in international solidarity with worker’s movements across the globe. Only through the ever increasing unity of working people will we be able to triumph over the severe inequalities of global capitalism, and build a just and peaceful socialist world!
Image credit: Steven Senne / AP