Globe, Human Rights, Politics, World

Reshaping the post-pandemic world

Most leaders of powerful nations seem to assume that the post-Covid-19 landscape will not herald a form of capitalism that differs in essence from the current neoliberal model.

 

Juan Diego García

 

In reality, discussions in these countries – as in emerging powers, such as China – centre on how to meet the demands of the wide range of social groups affected by the economic crisis, which began last year and  that coronavirus has turned into a nightmare.

As is the way when systems are in crisis, the situation will lead to high levels of streamlining in the business world, with the least capable ejected from the market, leaving the field wide open for big business, or, from the capitalist perspective, the most efficient.

The blow to small and medium-sized enterprises across all sectors is already obvious, with dramatic statistics for the business and service sectors.  Fundamentally then, this is nothing new. This is how the system works. It is based on the survival of the fittest, on a social Darwinism that is demonstrated much more dramatically by situations like the present.

In Europe, it seems the state is seeking to offer some support to small and medium-sized entrepreneurs, without changing the essence of the current neoliberal model. However, it seems highly unlikely, at least in the short term, that the business environment will recover to pre-pandemic levels.

The writing is already on the wall: high unemployment rates and a sharp drop in the purchasing power of the majority. Against this social and political backdrop, capital and labour are already clashing and the outcome will depend on the balance of power that emerges in each country.

For public businesses in the health sector – weakened or privatised in recent decades – recovery strategies are still an unknown.

The pandemic provides a dramatic example of how a single public service, universal and free health care, can face a challenge like the present one. It also confirms that the private sector is incapable of providing a moderately acceptable basic health service.

In Europe, neoliberalism has weakened public health systems and, given the political climate in the old continent, it is quite probable that governments will introduce changes in this respect.

The outlook in the United States is catastrophic: health care is under the hegemony of the private sector and large swathes of the population lack this basic service, a panorama that is even more acute in countries on the periphery of the global system (for example, in Latin America).

The case of China is striking, not only because of the discipline of its population (somewhat lacking in individualistic Western cultures) but also because of the effectiveness of its state-run health care system.

Of course, not all businesses have been affected. The figures already show that some have generated enormous profits – pharmaceutical companies, for example – highlighting the immense power that these monopolies hold over governments.

Nobody has explained why there is mass procurement of the vaccine from (extremely expensive) Western companies and not from China or Russia, who are already successfully administering their vaccines to their populations and exporting huge volumes to other countries (Brazil, for example).

In reality, precautionary measures governing the effectiveness of these  and other vaccines must be a top priority. It is unacceptable to argue that Chinese or Russian vaccines are not trustworthy.

The Pfizer vaccine, the most purchased by Western governments, seems to present some problems. According to press reports, a hospital in the United States has stopped using this vaccine due to adverse reactions among some of the patients vaccinated.

There is even some talk of alternative vaccines, the seemingly successful results of work by countries in the so-called “third world”. Yet we hardly hear anything about them.

The banks also seem to have profited, as well as other businesses within the health sector.

But this always happens with crises of capitalism, and the business community is again demanding that its problems are resolved with public funds.

Neoliberals, who have long condemned the involvement of the state and praised the role of the private sector, are now the first to request that public funds prioritise them.

This is the logic of the system and standard capitalist practice. It is also the norm that social pressure and citizen movements manage to limit losses in the workforce and ensure that the costs of recovery do not solely or largely land on the shoulders of employees.

Once the pandemic has been overcome, we will not see the birth of a new civilisation (for better or for worse) as some predict.

Capitalism will surely continue, albeit obliged to introduce the changes won through societal pressure.

But it is not likely that these changes will transform the essence of the system. In fact, it is very unlikely because the balance of power is weighted against those who aspire to overthrow a system that has been dramatically laid bare by the pandemic and economic crises.

The link between capitalism and adverse impacts on nature (and humans) is without doubt another aspect of the problem, as is declared by scientists around the world.

Scientists say that if the current problems are not corrected, catastrophe on an apocalyptic scale is unavoidable, endangering the very survival of the human species.

Yet the system is already pressing on with its own solutions, in the hope of pacifying public opinion and reaping further profit.

Without doubt, the pandemic has helped us recognise the numerous limitations of private management of strategic sectors and reminded us of the importance of returning them to the public sector.

This will undoubtedly be (and already is) one of the central aspects in the debate on measures to rebuild the planet once the pandemic has passed.

With enough citizen mobilisation, remarkable gains can be won. If not, capital will continue its hegemony over our daily lives until a new crisis again shows us the many limitations and hardships of a system that is based on exploiting human beings and destroying the natural world for the sake of profit.

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: rebeccandhlovu@hotmail.co.uk) – Photos: Pixabay

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