Exponential Explosions Shake the World: Radical Reorganization Required | Counter-currents
It’s only been a few months since we last wrote about the dangers of war, pandemics and climate change reaching fever pitch (https://multiracialunity.org/2022/05/07/an-exploding-world -requires-radical-change/ ), but already the crises are intensifying. Inflation, infection, injustice, impoverishment further endanger the lives of workers around the world.
Consequences of the war in Ukraine
As the NY Times lead editorial recently said (06/22/2022), “Are we at war in Ukraine already? After donating $56 billion to the war effort and providing the intelligence to kill three Russian generals and sink a warship and promising rockets capable of hitting Russia, have we not already done of war ? If the Russians did the same to us, the article asks, wouldn’t we consider that an act of war?
Elsewhere, the same article points out that China and India are buying as much Russian oil as it previously sold to Europe. Taking into account rising energy prices, Russia earned $1.7 billion more in May than in April. Meanwhile, the West faces runaway inflation and fuel shortages loom in Europe and Asia.1 The alliances between China and India and Russia thus also strengthen and weaken the position of the United States vis-à-vis its main rival on the world stage, China.
At least in the short term, pressure on energy supplies can be expected to exacerbate climate change by increasing the use of fossil fuels, which are more easily accelerated than renewable alternatives or nuclear power. The latter two rely on rare earth metals and elements for their technologies which have also been made rare.2 Of course, there was little reason to hope that the capitalists of the world were doing anything close enough to combat climate change even before this conflict.
Economic crises worsen
Just as the war in Ukraine and the growing competition between the United States and China are the result of capitalist competition for power, resources, markets and profits, capitalism ensures that the crisis benefits the owners and penalizes the owners. workers. While US executive salaries rose an average of $10.6 million last year to almost 700 times that of white-collar workers, workers’ salaries only increased an average of $23,968. Adjusting for inflation, there was a 3.9% decline in average weekly earnings.
After recovering from temporary Covid-related declines in 2020, companies in North America, Europe, the UK and Japan paid out $1.5 trillion in dividends in 2021 and from March 2020 to February 2022, they spent $9.94 trillion buying back their own shares to artificially boost earnings per share.3 Even Biden, when he offered his meager 18 cent per gallon gas cost cut by waiving the federal tax, had to beg gas companies not to use the savings for stock buybacks instead of pass the savings on to customers.
Meanwhile, inflation hit 11% in the UK, 8.8% in the EU and 8.6% in the US. According to much of the press, one of the causes of inflation is the padded household income due to the generosity of the government during the Covid shutdown.4 However, as economist Jack Rasmus points out, only $200 billion entered the economy from the US relief package in the third quarter of 2021, compared to $5 trillion in GDP in the same quarter. It is therefore difficult to attribute the inflation, which began to accelerate at this time, to excess spending capacity. Instead, what increased was demand when people started returning to work and needed goods and services.5
The most important inflationary factor was the supply bottleneck just as demand was increasing. There was a shortage of ships in addition to a lack of workers. Although $25 billion was given to companies in 2020-21, 75% of which was supposed to subsidize employee wages, most companies still laid off their workers, resulting in a shortage of transport workers. A third factor was corporate greed, which simply raised their prices in industries where five or fewer companies controlled more than 80% of a product or service. An example is the US oil companies, which raised their prices by 34.2% at the end of 2021, well before the war in Ukraine.
The war, of course, made matters worse. Russia provides 20-30% of many commodities, including oil, gas and industrial metals. Since the United States banned Russian oil and Europe plans to cut imports by 90%, gasoline prices have risen sharply. Once shortages were predicted, all manner of intermediaries, such as marine insurers, raised their rates (NYT 6/25).
Worker productivity per unit of work has been declining for a decade, but saw the biggest decline since 1947 in the first quarter of 2022. Ultimately, this negative pull on earnings will lead to increased layoffs and unemployment to restore the rate of exploitation that capitalism demands. .6
Worse than the economic disruptions of the West is the mass starvation in Africa. In Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya alone, 23 million people suffer from extreme hunger. These countries import 90% of their wheat from Ukraine and Russia and much of their cooking oil and fertilizers. Additionally, there has been a severe drought since 2020, reflecting the worsening state of climate change. As of May 2022, the UN has raised just $93 million to alleviate hunger in East Africa, compared to billions for Ukraine.seven
In 2017, 28 African countries depended on food aid and accounted for half of the deaths of children under five worldwide.8 However, hunger in Africa is not new and is not only the result of this recent war, but of centuries of capitalist exploitation. The cause dates back to colonialism, when European countries promoted the shift of agricultural economies towards the production of unique crops in each region that they wished to export. More recently, World Bank and IMF lending has continued to focus on products desired by the West rather than the development of local agriculture.9 Crop subsidies in the EU and US have made African farmers uncompetitive.8
Pandemic control failure
Even as pandemic precautions have been weakened around the world, infections continue to rise in 77 countries, led by the United States.ten Although vaccines and the immunity produced by infections in high- and middle-income countries have reduced death and hospitalization rates, the problem of the long duration of Covid persists. 8% of vaccinated and 20-30% of unvaccinated develop chronic health problems, some affecting vital organs like the brain and kidneys, which can produce a large number of chronically ill people.11
In low-income countries, only 17.8% of people have received even a single dose of the vaccine.12 The World Trade Organization meeting this month failed to overcome opposition from the EU, UK and Switzerland to lifting intellectual property barriers to vaccine production at mRNA. Although the United States favored the waiver, they wanted it to apply only to vaccines, not Covid treatments.13 All of this, of course, in the name of maintaining outsized pharmaceutical company profits – Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna made $34 billion in pre-tax profits in 2021.14
The result of the immunization failure of so many low-income countries, largely concentrated in Africa, is not just local disease and death. With so many hosts available, the virus will continue to mutate and some of the new variants may be more contagious or deadly than current variants. Already the B5 Omicron variant, first identified in South Africa, is the most common in the world and more contagious and resistant to vaccines than any other, but at least no more dangerous than the other variants. However, as long as new variants are encouraged to emerge, we can be sure that some will be more dangerous and the pandemic will not end.
Capitalism is the driving force
So once again we have to conclude that capitalism is the root of war, climate catastrophe, disease, poverty and hunger, racism and sexism. As the ability to make profits is threatened, the exploitation of workers must necessarily increase. As the greed of pharmaceutical companies and animal husbandry practices continue to produce pandemics and limit their treatment, millions more will die. As imperialist competition intensifies, wars will continue until direct conflict between the United States and China ensues. We ourselves, not to mention our children, face imminent peril – UNLESS we begin to conceive of replacing capitalism. Voting is not enough. Walking is not enough. Even a mass rebellion like in Sri Lanka, which is not anti-capitalist, is not enough. We must in fact suspend our work, encourage the soldiers not to fight and make us an army to fight for and create a society run by the workers.
Ellen Isaac is a physician and long-time anti-racist and anti-capitalist activist. She is co-editor of multiracialunity.org and can be reached at [email protected] This article first appeared on multiracialunity.org