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Capital’s profitability now depends on ‘lockdowns’, acute social enclosure, and ‘medical’ tyranny

*This essay was originally posted in April 2021 (and regularly updated) on but was censored the following September.

** The footnotes to this essay are too long to post on the same page and are easier to read separately anyway – please see here.

Because capitalism is working towards its own abolition by replacing commodity-producing labour with automation[1] capital’s profitability is increasingly dependent on low wages; high unemployment; the monetisation of personal data; public debt; state contracts; the centralisation of wealth; and — frankly — depopulation.

NB: This essay investigates and acknowledges how lockdowns and vaccine mandates/passports can benefit capital accumulation and the capitalist class, thereby establishing any motivations for any possible conspiracy. While this has to be discussed in the context of conspiracy theories, we do not claim to know if any of the conspiracy theories that have been put forward elsewhere are true or not – our position on the exact cause of the pandemic or whether 'the pandemic' was manufactured by sleights of hand is neutral. Our view is only to keep an open and sceptical position and show that, most importantly, whatever the specific cause and whatever the specific mishandlings of the response by the (capitalist) state, the vast bulk of responsibility for what has unfolded lies with the dying social relations of capitalist production and those who enforce them.

Whether you think that covid-19 broke out as a result of environmental and habitat destruction (a symptom of capitalism’s ever-greater dependence on labour exploitation and therefore commodity production);[2] that the infection and death rates have been inflated by sleights of hand[3] to justify ‘lockdowns’ and a profit-motivated vaccine arms race; that the outbreak was leaked from a lab, by accident or design (by China, the US, or jointly); or that there is no proof that covid-19 even exists as a novel virus;[4] one thing is undeniable: given the dire state of global economic growth, the timing of the apparent pandemic could not have been more convenient for the ruling class and the needs of capital accumulation. Doubts about the veracity or severity of covid-19; and concerns about the safety and efficacy of rushed vaccination programmes that cannot be simply dismissed as ‘anti-vaxxer’ hysteria have been widely discussed and debated elsewhere.[5] (Such ‘conspiracy theorists’ should not be smugly derided; MIT researchers found that they place a high premium on data analysis and empiricism and “believe science is a process, not an institution”.) What has not been covered convincingly, at least widely, is an analysis of why the ruling class might have resorted to any conspiracy (or at least such levels of rank opportunism), and why now exactly (with the World Economic Forum (WEF) founder Klaus Schwab publishing a book called covid-19: The Great Reset; and one of WEF’s contributors anticipating an entirely rent-based economy whereby “you’ll own nothing and be happy”). What we tend to hear from those who do believe in a conspiracy is that it is driven by 'greedy' grabs on land, wealth and power. These grabs are certainly happening — Microsoft founder Bill Gates has become the US’s largest owner of farmland — and greed plays its part. But stopping there does not get to the root of the issue. The root of the issue: the ever-rising demands of capital accumulation. Capitalism is a system that needs to keep expanding and monopolising production in order to keep the accumulation of capital going. Accumulation needs to keep going because capitalist production is based on (exchange) value production and the profit motive. As accumulation rises, the rate of profit tends to fall, yet the solution is to expand production in order to raise the mass of profit, intensifying the contradiction. The world rate of profit trended downwards from an estimated average of 43% in the 1870s to 17% in the 2000s. The rate of profit trends downwards (and therefore historically towards zero) because in order to raise the productivity of commodity-producing labour – capital’s exploitation of which is the sole source of profit – the innovation required conversely tends to replace said labour. The more capital-biased the ratio of capital-to-labour becomes, the more difficult it becomes for labour to reproduce and expand total capital yet further — yet the solution is to intensify the contradiction. Put another way, the capitalist produces more, yet less labour time and therefore exchange value and profit is contained per commodity. Capitalism as a system therefore suffers from a rising overaccumulation (surplus) of capital that cannot be (re)invested profitably in production (alongside which grows a surplus supply of (unemployed) labour). Debt rises to ‘fill the gap’ left by the insufficient amount of surplus value/labour time (that capital appropriates from workers and realises through commodity sales — that is, workers keep the amount of working time (the real measure of value, obscured by the wage/money/commodity relation) needed to cover their living costs, and the rest of their working time is appropriated by the capitalist. Wages must be slashed in relative and absolute terms to re-widen thinning profit margins, but the exploitability of labour continues to become increasingly insufficient to meet the ever-rising demands of accumulation. The centralisation of capital therefore becomes increasingly necessary (partly through speculation and price rises). The bigger companies buy up smaller companies (preferably ones that have gone bust, therefore on the cheap) and monopolise industry.[6] As a result, small capitalists and middle class people are increasingly pushed down into the ranks of the working class.

Innovations that speed up and expand production and cheapen labour also mostly take place in periods of economic contraction, when prices have fallen as firms scurry to sell off commodities that people and companies are struggling to afford.

For these restructurings to be instigated or accelerated, the system therefore needs a crisis. Recessions strike capitalist economies on average once per decade. Capitalism has now entered its deepest ever crisis. A decade of savage austerity after the 'financial crash/Great Recession' of 2007–09 — whereby capitalist governments redirected large portions of public spending into subsidising capital — has proven to be inadequate. Capital required a deeper depression. Instead of the official 1.7% global contraction (the first since WWII) that followed the last crisis, this time world GDP shrank (according to official numbers) by 3.6%. Lockdown induced, for example, Britain’s worst recession since 1709 (an economic contraction of around 30%, temporarily taking the size of the economy back to that of 2002, when the population was 59.24 million compared to 2019’s 66.65 million). 'Economic growth', which has slowed decade-on-decade for 50 years,[7] was already grinding to a halt — Germany’s economic output contracted by 0.1% in August 2019; Britain’s by 0.2%. According to Shell, peak oil struck in 2019, meaning the industry is now in terminal decline, with extraction becoming too capital-intensive and thus expensive and solar expected to be cheaper for consumers by the end of the decade.

In April 2018, the World Bank recommended yet more deregulation in a report that said “high minimum wages, undue restrictions on hiring and firing and strict contract forms all make workers more expensive vis-à-vis technology”. International capital was preparing a major assault on international labour in order to accelerate moves towards automation.

In August 2019, James Bullard of the Federal Reserve (the Fed), the US central bank, told the Financial Times that the ‘developed world’ had experienced a “regime shift”. “Something is going on, causing a total rethink of central banking and all our cherished notions about what we think we’re doing,” he said. “We just have to stop thinking that next year things are going to be normal.” The hardest ever stock market crash followed in March 2020. Many countries in South America and Sub-Saharan Africa were already in recession. The panic sell off of bonds and shares was triggered by a tapering of central bank money printing – spent on buying up government and corporate debt – in response to above-target inflation (2%). This itself had arisen from a record US corporate tax cut (35% to 21%), which in turn was aimed at reversing thinning profit margins. The tax cut enabled higher employment and therefore higher spending. As soon as the Fed ostensibly tried to cool inflation by tapering its bond-buying programme (which became necessary to stabilise the 2007-09 crisis) the world economy went into a deep two-month recession and the Fed was forced to reverse course – and then some. (The timing of the tapering might have also been aimed at ousting Donald Trump as US President, since high unemployment is the only thing that could have cost him re-election). Even before the crisis of 07–09, world debt had reached mountainous heights. It has since continued to hit new highs for so-called ‘peace time’ — the US, UK, Europe and their client proxies, such as Israel and Saudi Arabia, are of course waging endless wars on the Middle East and elsewhere — with the spending on the pandemic response (rising subsidies for capital; enforcing lockdowns) reaching world-war-like proportions. In fact, official US debt hit a new record of 136% of GDP in 2020, higher even than the 121% at the end of WWII. The real figure is at least 2.5 times higher though once ‘off the books’ net obligations like Social Security and Medicare are taken into account. According to the Institute of International Finance, ‘developed’ markets’ overall debt jumped to 432% of GDP in the third quarter, from a ratio of about 380% at the end of 2019. Emerging market debt-to-GDP hit nearly 250% in the third quarter, with China reaching 335%. This is not just capitalism’s deepest-ever crisis, though — the system is approaching its final breakdown, since the contemporary innovation required to raise the productivity of labour — automation — is now conversely abolishing the source of profit, i.e. capital’s exploitation of commodity-producing labour. The labour time and therefore the profit and exchange value contained in each commodity is withering away, evolving society’s economic-technical foundation towards one solely based on use value (utility), i.e. the lower stage of communism (socialism). The ruling class is therefore compelled to resort to increasingly reckless and oppressive means to redistribute the value that remains 'upwards' and reinforce its crumbling political superstructure, as the existing relations of production (private property) are becoming obsolete. The depth of the crisis of accumulation is such that the centralisation of capital is accelerating at an unprecedented pace. Capital’s dependence on public debt is reaching extreme highs. Monopoly capital has no choice but to make the state its number one customer if it is to remain profitable.

This has always been true of weapons manufacturers, for example. Without capitalist states waging wars, weapons manufacturers cannot remain profitable, and so bogus justifications for wars (remember Saddam Hussein’s never-found weapons of mass destruction?) have to be dreamed up (the plundering of raw materials and expanding/cheapening of labour supplies being the primary motivations). Whether covid-19 is real or not, exaggerated or not, the same is increasingly true for ‘Big Pharma’. Some 97% of the funding behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came from public sources, for example. The private pharmaceutical industry in the US has become so unprofitable that it has closed the bulk of its research & development facilities, relying instead on publicly-funded state military facilities. It at least seems true that Big Pharma needed something like a state-mandated mass vaccination programme to remain profitable. Similarly, public education is being privatised, made dependent on ‘Big Tech’, another disaster for children and their privacy (their data being a treasure trove to sell on to third parties) after a year of denied education and social development. The pandemic has also been a shot in the arm for the much-maligned plastics industry, with the world going through an extra 130 billion masks and 65 billion gloves a month, most of that ending up in the sea. Corruption, exploitation, coercion, neglect Corruption has gone into overdrive. In January 2022 the UK government wrote off £4.3bn of £5.8bn that was stolen from its emergency covid-19 schemes, i.e. public debt used to prop up and subsidise capital. US companies have been buying up until-now publicly-owned GP practices in the UK; and covid-related contracts have been handed to rich ‘donors’ of political parties without any oversight, due diligence or competition. Hundreds of NHS consultants who are doctors have shares in private health companies, with more than £1bn in revenue generated since 2015 from "often opaque" arrangements. Conflicts of interest among the UK government’s covid-19 advisors were covered up, although it later emerged that chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has a £600,000 shareholding in GlaxoSmithKline. Under threat of legal action, the UK government released details about NHS covid data deals with Google, Microsoft, Amazon and Faculty, the latter of which is linked to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s (now unofficial) advisor Dominic Cummings. The High Court later ruled that Michael Gove acted unlawfully when the government awarded a contract without a tender to the polling company owned by long-term associates of his and Cummings. The ruling was the first in a series of judicial review legal challenges brought by the Good Law Project (GLP) against government covid-19 contracts awarded with no competitive tenders under emergency regulations. Will resignations, fines or prison sentences follow? No chance. As Dr Zoe Harcombe, PhD, pointed out, “If Tony Blair went on The Marr Show to say 'those who drink Cola get freedoms back and those who don’t drink Cola don’t' and his company received $21 million from Cola, there would be outrage. The drug is different. The principle is the same.” If the ruling class really cared about public health, they would nationalise pharmaceutical companies and general health care, which has been increasingly privatised and therefore rationed over the past 30 years, the reason hospitals are increasingly overwhelmed every flu season. The total number of hospital beds in Britain has been cut from 300,000 to 141,000 over the past 30 years.

(Covid home test kits, incidentally, contribute to the privatisation of health care, since tests are performed gratis (for free) on behalf of capital, a form of ‘non-productive’ labour whereby no surplus value is produced but no wages are paid (whereas productive labour produces surplus value and unproductive labour (commercial workers who do not handle commodities, for example) is paid for out of productive labour)).

Are such samples and associated data sold on to third parties? If they aren’t already, they surely will be in future when companies need to find new ways of rewidening profit margins. In the US, “the FDA’s emergency authorisation process lists no explicit privacy safeguards”. In the UK, track and trace system data has been sold on from the start, leading to a huge rise in spam-style cons. German police used vaccine passport data to find witnesses to a crime and Canadian health officials were forced to admit that they secretly accessed the cellphone location data of 87% of Canadians to monitor their movement.

If governments really cared about public health, they would not be sending untested infected patients into care homes (which have been starved of resources and turned into de facto prisons) and covering this up “to protect commercial interests”. (This smacks of if not eugenics then culling, as did austerity; as did making ill and disabled people return to work. Isolation itself increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer’s; and is as deadly as obesity or smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Indeed, a study led by epidemiologist Dr Tom Jefferson found excess deaths of 25,611 deaths in UK care homes between March and June 2020, nearly 40% of which were not covid-related, but from hunger, thirst, neglect and loneliness. Slashing pensions and other expenses on the elderly and disabled means such expenditure can be transferred to subsidising capital. When the US death rate (the age-adjusted share of US Americans dying) rose slightly in 2015 for the first time since 1999, at least 12 corporations stated in annual reports that slips in mortality improvement reduced their pension payouts by a combined $9.7bn. When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez announced that people could apply for up to $9,000 for a universal covid-19 funeral assistance, it sounded a lot like an incentive for familicide.) If capitalist governments cared about public health, they would not be allowing an “evictions avalanche”. (At least 130,000 households in England were made homeless during the first year of the pandemic even before the government ended a temporary ban on evictions.) They would be taking pollution reduction, which causes (a conservatively estimated) one in five deaths – isn’t this a far worse kind of pandemic? – far more seriously, instead of ‘failing’ to wind down subsidies for fossil fuel companies and expanding deforestation and habitat destruction.

If the virus is so deadly and the vaccines so effective, they would be making sure poorer countries (which they make poor in the first place) had access to them. Instead, they have been putting off waiving patent rights for as long as possible to keep prices as high, while working out ways to defeat protections and competition from vaccine makers in Russia and China – not to mention to generate prejudice against ‘the unvaccinated’, especially of potential migrants, a classic case of (racist) divide and rule tactics.

Vilification The vilification of ‘super-spreaders’ at well attended beaches and events etc. and especially ‘the unvaccinated’ is well underway. (See these three examples.) The British Labour Party is just as guilty of ‘hygiene fascism’ as the Tories. “They’ve spent four hours cheek by jowl in some petri dish bringing god knows what into the country,” says Labour’s Emily Thornberry in reference to airplane passengers. According to Public Health England’s own figures for 25 Mar-05 May, of 150,000 arrivals into the UK, only 3,740 tested positive (2.5%). Every economic crisis is met with greater demonisation of migrants and tighter borders because the rise of surplus capital engenders surplus labour and the need to cut spending on benefits. The (capitalist!) Nazis did the same thing, i.e. falsely accused Jewish people (in general) of spreading diseases. Liberals and conservatives are more subtle than overt fascists these days, so it seems a caste of ‘the unvaccinated’ had to be manufactured. In the US, a former Obama administration ‘health expert' said “unvaccinated Americans should not be allowed to work or have access to children”. The expansion of the commodification of human bodies in the form of child and human trafficking is also a tendency that strengthens in a capaitalist crisis.

Capital is in such a deep crisis that it must pauperise the masses in order to sufficiently centralise enough capital. Parts of Australia are fining people for talking to each other in the street. A region of Ontario in Canada is “now mandating that people must do formal contact tracing in their homes, even if they’re just having someone over for coffee — and they’ll be fined $5000 if they don’t”. People are being blackmailed when only a few people are in intensive care.

The Great Lockdown Shakedown Numerous studies have argued that ‘lockdowns’ (perhaps just the latest acute stage in the brutal 600-year process of social enclosure, i.e. the privatisation and atomisation of public land and space)[8] are much more harmful to public health than covid-19 and are not effective at suppressing transmission[9] (when the peaks and troughs of the virus have followed seasonal flu patterns; and flu disappeared apparently due to the lockdowns, even though key workers continued to work, with covid-19 numbers at their peak.) Countries with the tightest restrictions, it seems, have tended to experience (inflict, rather) the highest deaths per million.

Even before 2020, according to the authors of Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism, life expectancy in the US alone had fallen for three years in a row, “a reversal not seen since 1918 or in any other wealthy nation in modern times. In the past two decades, deaths of despair from suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism have risen dramatically, and now claim hundreds of thousands of American lives each year – and they’re still rising.” In a ‘people’s inquiry into lockdown’ in the UK, Karol Sikora, a cancer specialist at the University of Buckingham, warned that delays in cancer diagnosis could result in the loss of between 30,000 and 60,000 lives. He said the requirement to stay at home was likely to have resulted in increases in deaths from “otherwise curable diseases” such as cancer, heart attacks and strokes. Highlighting four key obstacles to patients getting treatment for cancer, he said people delayed seeking help from GPs; primary care services were curtailed; there was a “breakdown” in hospital diagnostics; and there were delays in patients starting their first treatment, which is normally surgery. On 6 July, the UK government said seven million people “did not come forward” for treatment over the previous 16 months for things like cancer, heart disease and mental health issues. It said the figure could rise to 13 million. With general GP, hospital and surgery appointments having nosedived, money usually spent on these public services can be redirected to subsidising capital and ease the burden on tax bases, contributing to a substantial rise in illness, untreated illness and overall deaths. (To tackle the backlog, the government gave the NHS £10m less than it awarded Pestfix – a pest control firm with 16 staff and no experience – to make NHS personal protective equipment.) Social democrats like Owen Jones claim that “lockdowns aren’t in the interests of capital”. The evidence suggests otherwise: in 2020, billionaires collectively gained $3.9 trillion while workers collectively ‘lost’ $3.7 trillion, according to Oxfam – about 1/20th of annual GDP – a perfect example of Marx’s analysis that the accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time an accumulation of poverty at the other.

The Netflix CEO has been showering money on pro-lockdown politicians. Because it has had to take such drastic measures to reinforce itself, lockdowns now suit monopoly capital perfectly. They have been used to depress wages through mass unemployment (and by increasing competition between workers) and furlough schemes (a direct public subsidy to capital, removing the burden of wages) that do not pay full rates; to wipe out swathes of 'small and medium' capital that can be bought up on the cheap by 'big' capital (60% of US closures have become permanent); and to destroy surplus commodity capital that cannot be sold at a profit, including mountains of food (including, quite possibly, through covert cyber-attacks), starving hundreds of millions of people who have become surplus, disposable labour that capital can no longer afford to employ or even feed. In sum, the lockdowns have arguably become necessary in this period to sufficiently cheapen labour, production, expansion, innovation and mergers, while legally preparing for the revolts that all this will compel.

The known number of children in child labour has risen to 160 million worldwide, an increase of 8.4 million in the past four years, with millions more now at risk, reversing the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016. (The figure must be much higher given, for example, the stealthiness of child exploitation through online gaming.) Similarly, the sex trade is booming. Much of the workplace has been moved to the home, saving capital costs on office space; pushing running costs such as electricity and water bills onto workers; and making them work longer hours, all combining to deepen the rate of their exploitation. About 30% of remote workers in a UK survey said they were working more unpaid hours than before lockdown, with 18% reporting at least four additional unpaid hours a week. According to an ADP Research Institute study, employees globally are now working 9.2 hours per week of unpaid overtime on average, up from 7.3 hours in a year. Proposals have been made that would change the law to make it impossible for employers to insist on staff attending the workplace unless they can show it is essential. Confined to the home, or at least unable to wander far from it, we have been made ever-more dependent on online shopping. Amazon and co have cashed in while increasing the rate of exploitation of their low-paid and overworked warehouse and courier workers. Workers across at least four different Amazon sites in the UK have been told they had to work “compulsory overtime”.

Disenfranchisement Disenfranchising the masses – not that we ever had much say on anything beyond voting every few years for privileged ‘representatives’ who break manifesto pledges – and torching their civil rights[10] has never been an easy task (especially today, with a world population of eight billion people). It is much easier, however, if you can convince the majority of people that giving up their civil rights is in their own interests or for the greater good (usually through subtle and not so subtle forms of scaremongering). People were convinced to go along with World War I (WWI) via xenophobic propaganda and under the impression that it would ‘be over by Christmas’. Four years later, at least 20 million people had been savagely killed in what Harry Patch called “legalised mass slaughter” – of surplus labour. Now we are told ‘normality’ can only return by agreeing to lockdowns, rushed vaccination programmes and discriminatory domestic ‘vaccine’ passports. (There have even been calls for “those with weak immune systems” to wear armbands. As Bethany Dawson tweeted, “As an immunosuppressed Jew, no thanks.”) The lowest paid – whose wages have taken the biggest hit – are the least likely to get the vaccine (while coercive strategies are having the effect of putting many people off getting vaccinated – the ruling class certainly does not want everyone to get vaccinated if they are to create a new marginalised caste). Domestic ‘vaccine passports' are inherently racist – and create a new caste, anyway – since ‘the vaccine hesitant’ are also disproportionately black people and other ethnic minorities, educated as they are in centuries of colonial medical abuse.[11] When New York City announced that proof of covid-19 vaccinations would be required to dine indoors at a restaurant, see a performance or go to the gym, it excluded “around 69% of Black people, 58% of Latino people, and the majority of residents in the Bronx” from participation in society. This seems like a ploy to divide and rule and destroy labour that is no longer affordable for capital to employ.

It is naive to think mandates will definitely end after two doses of an mRNA vaccine or after a few boosters. If the government can tie your job to these shots, then it can also tie housing, electricity, healthcare, and food to vaccines and good behavior. The tech industry is making a big push for Digital ID, primarily to generate and monetise personal data, and speed up the circulation and turnover of capital, with the added bonus of controlling and monitoring labour’s movement and activity. Digital ID might become useful within socilism once everybody's interests are aligned, but under capitalism the move is dangerous and oppressive. Scientists advising the UK government have admitted that terror tactics have been deployed. The Telegraph reports (14 May, 2021) that, “Scientists on a committee that encouraged the use of fear to control people’s behaviour during the covid-19 pandemic admitted its work was ‘unethical’ and ‘totalitarian’. Members of the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviour (SPI-B) (in the UK) expressed regret about the tactics… One [said]: ‘… There were discussions about fear being needed to encourage compliance, and decisions were made about how to ramp up the fear.... Ultimately, it backfired because people became too scared.' … The Government has been accused of feeding the public a non-stop diet of bad news, such as deaths and hospitalisations, without ever putting the figures in context with news of how many people have recovered, or whether daily death tolls are above or below seasonal averages.”

A member of SPI-B later admitted on Twitter that modellers only put together models for the government that force a decision, i.e. worst case scenarios that require restrictions – best case scenarios do not require a decision, so are not presented. The privately-owned British mass media has accepted £322 million of taxpayers’ money from the government for ‘covid advertising’ until March 2022. The UK government is now the biggest spender of advertising in the UK. The media does not bite the hand that feeds. On 17 May 2021, Johnson, as part of his bid to keep up his ‘libertarian’ facade, said that, “I’ve learnt that it’s much easier to take people’s freedoms away than give them back.” A few days earlier, US President Joe Biden said that, “The rule is now simple: get vaccinated or wear a mask until you do.” In December, he stepped up the sinister tone, saying that "the unvaccinated [are] looking at a winter of severe illness and death for yourselves, your families, and the hospitals you may soon overwhelm".

The threat of hyperinflation In March 2021, Bloomberg columnist Andreas Kluth published an article headlined “We must start planning for a permanent pandemic”. On 9 June, David Nabarro, a special envoy from the World Health Organisation, said that vaccines won’t be enough to end the pandemic, and that lifestyles “will have to adapt”. Susan Michie, a behavioural scientist advising the government – a long-time member of the de facto reformist and social democratic ‘Communist’ Party of Britain – said mask-wearing and social distancing would have to continue “forever, to some extent”. At the same time, Professor Tim Spector, an epidemiologist at King’s College London said of a ‘new rise’ in the number of positive tests that, “It’s clear that this is an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated.” One has to wonder about the compatibility of blaming ‘the unvaccinated’ at the same time as saying that vaccines are not enough to end lockdowns and other anti-social measures. It just so happened that this ‘new rise’, at a time when the seven-day ‘covid deaths’ average had fallen to a lowly 9, coincided with the number of tests roughly doubling. (For comparison, an average 900 cancer and heart/circulation deaths are recorded daily in the UK.) It also turns out that 80% of "covid hospitalisations" are not in hospital for covid, but test positive after being admitted. And it also just so happened on 10 June that the Bank of England’s (BoE) chief economist Andy Haldane warned that a looming threat of inflation meant the BoE faced its biggest policy challenge since Black Wednesday in 1992, when an inflation rate of just 12% led to a collapse in pound sterling and forced Britain to withdraw from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. With restrictions in Britain having been eased, but not fully lifted, actual prodution cannot hope to keep up with the demand to convert surplus capital (that became unprofitable to reinvest) back into productive capital; i.e. the mix of pent-up demand outstripping decimated supply chains threatens inflation much higher than the 2% target (higher than average wage rises and enough to incentivise lending and spending, since falling prices indicate recession; and stable enough for businesses to plan expenditure). By the end of June, inflation in Britain hit 2.5%, “far exceeding expectations”, as the Financial Times put it, of 2.1%, and “the third consecutive month of higher than expected inflation”, up from an annual rate of only 0.4% in February. The cost of rice flour was up year-on-year by 26%, canned tomatoes by 23%, and freight transport by 10%. Overall food inflation in Britain is expected to hit 5% in autumn 2021 due to ‘labour shortages’ – when millions of workers are on furlough. In the US, the consumer price index jumped by 5.4% year-on-year amid a debate over the risk of runaway prices. Central banks claimed inflation would be 'transitory' but have now put their tail between their legs and stopped using the term. High inflation would usually force central banks to raise baseline interest rates (by reducing the money supply and seeling off debt) to subdue spending. But such a move risks bursting the biggest financial bubble in world history, an unprecedented debt bubble that engulfs all asset classes, since raising rates makes (already record-high) government debt more expensive to repay, potentially triggering a huge panic sell off of government debt as investors realise the government is broke, with such funds instead being switched to hard assets, especially precious metals, which would (hyper)inflate, causing already relatively dwindling tax bases to collapse. It takes an average 6% cut in the base interest rate to end recessions, but the crisis of capitalism is now so deep that the US and UK rates have already been stuck at zero (below 1% for the first time ever) for most of the past 13 years. (They rose slightly in 2016-19, but were cut back to zero again from 1.75% and 0.75% respectively in March 2020.) Negative rates may be an option, but a limited one – there is only so much cash that can be converted into stocks and bonds (hence the so-called ‘war on cash’).

Moving the goalposts

Managing the threat of hyperinflation and responding to the deepening difficulty of expanding capital accumulation may be what is having the biggest influence on the ever-shifting messaging. First we were told in March 2020 that we needed a lockdown “for three weeks to flatten the curve”. Then in December 2020 we were told that, in Britain, we needed 15 million vaccinations – enough to have ‘covered everyone in the four most vulnerable groups’ – a figure expected by the end of February 2021. Indeed, it was reached on 14 February and confirmed on 2 May. Then it turned out that the can had to be kicked yet further down the road, to ‘protect the NHS’, at a time when only 1% of NHS beds were occupied by ‘covid patients’. The government can use ‘new variants’ from any part of the country or world at a moment’s notice to justify new/extended/harsher lockdowns or ramp up the pressure on people to get vaccinated. On 22 February, Johnson announced a roadmap to lifting lockdown completely on 21 June, but on 17 May a government minister said the chances of that happening had become “close to nil” due to the prevalence of the so-called ‘Indian/Delta’ and ‘Delta Plus’ variants, which then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock blamed on ‘vaccine hesitancy’. On 11 June, government sources said lockdown would be extended for another month. Two days later senior ministers said they had been told that restrictions could actually go on until Spring 2022. Then it was leaked that the government was considering plans to reimpose restrictions for the next five winters. When on 5 July Johnson eventually announced the lifting of restrictions on 19 July, it was only for many restrictions (care home residents remained locked up, for one one thing). The Guardian reported: “In a sign the government may reimpose restrictions this autumn, the prime minister warned the public against going ‘de-mob happy’. He said opening up – including the lifting of all limits on sports events and nightclubs – would be safest during the school summer holidays and did not say the changes would be irreversible…. Ministers will hold on to powers to ‘reimpose economic and social restrictions at a local, regional or national level’....” On the same day, Parliament rammed through the third reading of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that enables: police to criminalise anyone using civil disobedience and direct action tactics; a racist crackdown on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities (and anyone who wants to live off-grid); an increase in harsh criminal sentencing; and an expansion to stop and search powers. On 19 July itself, the government said that it would be bringing in domestic ‘vaccine’ passports at the start of October for nightclubs and other ‘crowded places’. ‘Freedom Day’, indeed. On 6 September it was reported that the government was “planning an October lockdown” should hospitalisations continue at their current level and threaten to overload the NHS, contradicting the narrative about effective vaccines. Previously, Hancock had said “look what is happening in Bolton hospital where the majority of people in hospital with coronavirus were eligible for the jab but have chosen not yet to have the jab and have ended up in hospital, some of them in intensive care”. He was contradicted by Mohammed Khan, leader of Blackburn with Darwen council, who said six of the nine(!) coronavirus patients at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS trust had received at least one jab. (Hancock was later sacked for ‘breaking social distancing protocol’ after what many sceptics have considered may have been a staged public kiss naively 'caught on camera' at work with an aide, perhaps to encourage social conservatism.) Up to 20,000 mutations have been identified, impossible for any vaccines to keep up with but justifying, Hancock hinted, new vaccine ‘booster’ jabs every year. This was confirmed later after it became apparent that even though the vaccines are ‘very effective’ that effectiveness ‘quickly’ wanes. In September Israel moved on to ‘booster’ two/jab four. The cash (public debt) certainly keeps on rolling in for pharmacorp. (A number of 'leading experts' and high-ranking politicians very clearly stated that the vaccines would eliminate transmission and illness. Yet in August 2021, Public Health England said that, “Some initial findings […] indicate that levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people. This may have implications for people’s infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not.” This feels like it could be an advert for booster jabs; but again, it shows the pillorying of ‘the unvaxxed’ is unjustified. As many pointed out, those who have reluctantly taken the jabs to access freedom have been fooled. As Annabel Fenwick Elliott writes: “... those NHS Covid passes we’ve been using to escape quarantine both when visiting other countries and upon our return are going to plummet in value. Already, UK festivals and other mass events are switching their entry requirements to require a negative test of everyone – regardless of vaccination status… The countries with the highest vaccination rates in the world were also recording enormous surges in case counts. Many of these, heavily reliant on tourism for their GDP, had rushed to inoculate their entire populations as a matter of urgency purely for this reason: to reopen for visitors. The Seychelles, for example, had by mid-May double-jabbed more than 80% of its population, but regardless, its case count was 67 times higher than ours.” Similar is true of Israel, which consequently reintroduced harsher restrictions after a “huge rise in ‘delta’ cases” despite being the most vaccinated country.) “In reality, mutations rarely impact outbreaks dramatically,” according to Grubaugh et al. Even CNN, the media arm of the Democratic Party, initially promoted this position: “The genetic material of the virus is RNA, not DNA like in humans. Unlike with human DNA, when viruses copy their genetic material, it does not proofread its work. Because RNA viruses essentially operate without a spell-check, they often make mistakes. These ‘mistakes’ are mutations, and viruses mutate rapidly compared to other organisms. While this might sound frightening, mistakes during replication usually produce changes that are neutral or even harmful to the newly generated virus. Neutral mutations, which neither improve nor hinder viruses’ survival, may continue to circulate without any noticeable change in the people they infect. Mutations that are harmful to the viruses are less likely to survive and are eliminated through natural selection.” Early studies indicate that the immune system evolves to fight any coronavirus variants. Nature reports that, “Young children account for only a small percentage of covid-19 infections – a trend that has puzzled scientists. Now, a growing body of evidence suggests why: kids’ immune systems seem better equipped to eliminate SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that allegedly causes the diseases) than are adults.” Governments insist that children still need to be vaccinated, however, with this brand new vaccine technology rolled out not gradually but suddenly during a global crises when the former technology would have sufficed. On 20 June 2021, a leading British virologist, Julian Tang of Leicester University, claimed that under-18s would become “reservoirs” in which new variants of the virus could arise if only adults were vaccinated. Frankly, this sounds like unadulterated Nazi talk. A day later, the World Health Organisation announced that “children should not be vaccinated for the time being” – news that Facebook censored – after a 13 year-old in the US with no known underlying health conditions died after their second dose of the Pfizer injection. (Reports of death following vaccination have been extraordinarily high compared to all over vaccines over the past 30 years, and it is thought that only 1-10% of adverse reactions get reported. Unlike ‘deaths of or with covid’, vaccine deaths are not recorded up to 28 days later.) A study published in the British Medical Journal has said that children are not ‘superspreaders’ and should go back to school. On 3 September, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) said it would not be recommending vaccinations for 12-15 year-olds – only to be reportedly overridden by the government. A day later a major study reported that teenage boys are six times more likely to suffer from heart problems from the vaccine than be hospitalised from covid-19. Robert Malone MD, “the original inventor of the mRNA vaccine (and DNA vaccine) core platform technology” called for a halt to the vaccination programme back in June on the basis that they are experimental by definition, breaking the Nuremberg Code established in the wake of the crimes of Nazi Germany. The UK government is pushing ahead with plans to make vaccination mandatory for nurses and carers. This flagrant coercion – no doubt motivated partly by the chance to drive more nurses off the payroll so that the health service can be further privatised (20,000 of the latter quit before the mandate was dropped at the 11th hour) – again goes against the Nuremburg Code. The UK government even set-up pop-up vaccination centres at Thorpe Park, an amusement park. How is that even legal? (Vienna went one better by turning brothels into vaccine centres with the incentive of giving the vaccinated "half an hour with the lady of their choice".) In November, the UK government announced tighter restrictions and said that booster jabs should be taken every three months, down from six previously. This happened to coincide with slowing economic growth – down to 1.3% in the third quarter from 5.5% in the second – and an expected housing/financial crash in China, an economy that almost single-handedly cushioned the 07-09 crash globally but is now in dire straights itself. The US central bank also announced plans to taper its bond-buying programme that is staving off the next crash around this time.

(In November, a South African doctor said that the 'omicron' variant apparantly discovered there was mild, but the capitalist media hype again went into overdrive to justify new restrictions and booster jabs, despite the CDC saying that 80% of omicron cases found were in the fully vaccinated, a third of which had received a booster. On 13 December Marty Makary, editor of Medpage, said he would be testifying to Congress to say that "covid policies are no longer based on clinical data". A few days later Peter Doshi in the British Medical Journal said, "Deactivating or disconnecting ourselves from the dashboards may be the single most powerful action towards ending the pandemic... It will be over when we... decide that other issues are once again worthy of our attention.")

In Greece, the government introduced €100 per month fines for over-60s who do not get vaccinated, a death sentence for many in a country already all but bled dry by the EU (i.e. mainly German and French capitalists).

The truth may well be that the capitalist state’s vaccine programme is motivated primarily by the profit-necessity; and that the financial bubble means the ruling class has no incentive to ever fully lift lockdown (or at least the legisaltion that enabled it). The ruling class has no choice but to keep inflation and therefore demand in check – by making competitors and people poorer and destroying now surplus labour that capital can no longer afford to employ. A section of the ruling class will, however, eventually be compelled to trigger hyperinflation in order to torch wages, taxes and debt and centralise capital yet further, at which point its hopes of sustaining social peace will implode. The ruling class is therefore attempting to (further) confuse, divide, depress, infantilise and subjugate the masses, since it knows that what it needs to do to keep capital accumulation going is bound to impoverish more and more people and therefore create more and more militant opposition. The ruling class will go to any lengths – the US has suddenly drummed up mainstream headlines stating that “UFOs do exist[12] – to keep the public in the dark about what is really going on: that it is dispossessing more and more carriages on its real-life Snowpiercer train while potentially destroying the habitability of the planet (incidentally, Big Pharma emits more greenhouse gas than the automotive industry). The ruling class will go to any lengths to justify attacks on (already very limited) democratic processes, freedom of speech, the right to protest and other civil rights (despite admitting that protests, raves and crowded beaches do not cause infection spikes; even their own figures link only 0.1% of cases to outdoor transmission). In September, the head of the largest independent union federation in South Korea was arrested in a dawn raid, using supposed social distancing violations as a pretext, on the eve of a national healthcare strike. In France, where real street resistance has been high and persistent, people have been beaten by police for going shopping without a ‘vax’ passport. The collapse of social democracy The social democratic/‘democratic socialist’ ‘left’ (including many nominal communist organisations) – which largely represents a privileged layer of the working class, a managerial labour aristocracy – is mostly ostensibly opposed to banning the right to peaceful protest during even the pandemic but not the covid-19/lockdown legislation that has effectively already banned that right. They have supported an enabling act. Much of the left supported such legislation supposedly on the basis that it would be temporary. If so, how naive. Yet this section of the left keeps demanding that authoritarian right-wing governments impose harder lockdowns, effectively supporting the isolation of old and disabled people in care homes and helping the libertarian and fascist right to pin the brutality of lockdowns on the left. The left calls for protections of mRNAs made in ‘the West’ – designed to create artificial scarcity and therefore higher prices – to be dropped so that they can be accessed by poor countries, ignoring the reality that such countries largely do not want the vaccines. A survey by Afro-barometer found that 79% of Senegalese people and 66% of Liberians consider it “unlikely” or “highly unlikely” that they will get vaccinated. Wittingly or unwittingly, the left is being recruited by capital to pry open ‘developing markets’ and smash the protections of vaccine makers in Russia, China and India. (In April 2021, 60 million AstraZeneca vaccines deemed too dangerous for Europeans (due to risk of blood clotting) were dumped in poor countries in the name of “vaccine equity”. Furthermore, four African presidents who questioned the covid narrative have since conveniently died: John Magufuli, the late president of Tanzania; Hamed Bakayoko, Ivory Coast prime minister; Ambrose Dlamini, prime minister of Eswatini; and Pierre Nkurunziza, Burundi’s president. In July 2021, Jovenel Moïse, the president of Haiti, was assassinated. A few weeks later, Haiti received 500,000 vaccines. Two of the arrested accused assassins are full US citizens.) The left’s progressive spin on lockdowns and track and trace (which has been reportedly used to hunt down Palestinians) effectively portrays the masses as plague-ridden. This is a far cry from Che Guevara treating lepers bare-faced/handed. The idea that Karl Marx would have supported the measures that have been taken is surely laughable. As he once said: “The human body is mortal by nature. Hence illnesses are inevitable. Why does a man only go to the doctor when he is ill, and not when he is well? Because not only the illness, but even the doctor is an evil. Under constant medical tutelage, life would be regarded as an evil and the human body as an object for treatment by medical institutions. Is not death more desirable than life that is a mere preventive measure against death? Does not life involve also free movement? What is any illness except life that is hampered in its freedom? A perpetual physician would be an illness in which one would not even have the prospect of dying, but only of living. Let life die; death must not live. Has not the spirit more right than the body? Of course, this right has often been interpreted to mean that for minds capable of free motion physical freedom of movement is even harmful and therefore they are to be deprived of it. The starting point of the censorship is that illness is the normal state, or that the normal state, freedom, is to be regarded as an illness.” The left’s argument is that harder and therefore supposedly shorter lockdowns in countries with ‘socialist’ or left social democratic governments elsewhere have slowed transmission quicker and enabled reopening sooner. But supporting lockdowns and a fantasy ‘zero covid’ policy in countries ruled by right-wing governments only serves to empower those governments. Did they really think these emergency powers would not be abused? Furthermore, the countries that apparently achieved ‘zero covid’ with early, hard lockdowns have gone on to report ‘new wavesof infection. In those same countries, ‘immunity debt’, whereby “lockdown is causing an influx of babies with a severe respiratory virus into hospitals”, for example, because of a lack of exposure “to normal levels of viruses and bacteria”, is causing “a surge in infections as normal life resumes”. While Boris Johnson was supposedly resisting the left’s demands to impose a lockdown, the UK government struck a deal worth £119m with a US advertising company, OMD Group, urging people to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’, a full three weeks before lockdown was imposed. As Oxford epidemiologist and lockdown sceptic Sunetra Gupta has said, “a very large segment of the left are behaving in an entirely individualistic way. They’re just being motivated by their own interests.” The response from de facto social democratic 'socialist' and 'communist' organisations has been an equivalent of the collapse of the Second International in 1914, when the reformist wing of the Marxist movement betrayed the masses by siding with ‘their own’ states instead of — like the Bolsheviks, who went on to lead the 1917 Russian revolution — opposing WWI.

Resistance Cross-class resistance is growing. On 24 April 2021, a diverse protest of hundreds of thousands of people in London, for example, amid similar protests around the world, defied the law by marching against domestic passports and lockdowns (an event that was largely censored or smeared by the BBC, ITV and Sky. Incidentally, Bloomberg reports that “dogs sniffing covid from sweat fare almost as well as PCR tests”, a neat justification perhaps for taking police dogs on protests and maybe even a trick for reducing racist stop & search figures.) This was a not ‘left-wing’ protest — ‘the left’ largely did not show up, dangerously ceding these issues to ‘the (far) right’ — but Marxists are not ‘left wing’, i.e. capitalist reformists. They must take this opportunity and others that arise ‘spontaneously’ (such as the football fan protests against the European Super League) to win over newly politicised people — along with defections from across the political spectrum — to socialism. As Lenin said: “To imagine that social revolution is conceivable … without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petit bourgeoisie [small business owners] with all its prejudices [our emphasis], without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses, is to repudiate social revolution.” The way forward is the united front: critical support for actually defensive/progressive ‘reforms’ (including defeating regressive legislation in the first place), while retaining the right to criticise allies and stress the absolute need for socialism; and doing so by addressing the leadership of reformists in calls for joint action in order to expose the shortcomings of those leaders and most effectively address and win over the reformist rank and file of their organisations.

To be clear: communists must oppose – because they profoundly increase capital's power over the masses – lockdowns, mandates and domestic passports; and argue that only socialism can: a) provide the holistic approach for all that is needed for disease treatment and prevention – low-cost access to high quality insulation, exercise, clean water, nutritious diets, all-round health care, protective equipment, etc. (and traditional vaccines taken up voluntarily if new socialist states determine that covid-19 is real, still pre-endemic and that the mRNAs are unsafe; or just to increase confidence in any needed vaccine take-up); and b) get to the bottom of the origins – real or manufactured – of the apparent pandemic and the way in which it has been handled.

Unsustainable Whether you think there is a conspiracy or not, what is undeniable is that capitalism is, one way or another, responsible for what’s happening. This dying system is making life increasingly miserable for almost everyone. As Marx and Engels wrote in their Economic Manuscripts in 1844, “The goal of the capitalist economic system is the unhappiness of society.” Outbreaks of mass sickness and death are features of collapsing empires because of increasing conflict and scarcity, and the degradation of privatised public services, particularly health care and sanitation, and therefore a degradation in physical and mental human health. (Water sanitation measures alone explain 75% of the decline in infant mortality in the US between 1900 and 1936, and half the total decline in mortality rates.)[13] And the more capitalism continues to destroy the environment and degrade public services, the more likely the possibility of any zoonotic outbreaks (although this could also serve as cover for the destruction of ‘overproduced’ animal stock that has become unprofitable, instead of using it to feed people for free).[14] The profit motive — or, rather, the profit necessity — does make it difficult to trust capitalist health care.[15] (The UK pharmaceutical industry has regulated itself since Thatcher.) For one thing, there is no long-term profit to be made in preventive or curative health care. (Hence why there has been next to no progress in antibiotics since the 1980s, contributing to the apparently growing threat of antibiotics-resistant infection, along with the drugging up of packed-in-like-sardines cattle, encouraging disease to spread, to fatten up animals, again to maximise profit.) Health problems that are induced or made up by snake-oil salesmen – cultivating a market of sick and neurotic human cattle – or that simply arise from the social conditions created by capitalism, are often solely medicalised, i.e. treated as medical rather than social issues (often sickness-inducing or addictive sedatives and the like to treat depression — which is largely caused by the increasing social enclosure, alienation and hyper-individualist, anti-communal social relations of capitalist society — for example). “Every nine minutes, someone in a US hospital dies due to a medical diagnosis that was wrong or delayed,” according to the Society to Improve Diagnosis in Medicine. According to a study by Johns Hopkins published in 2016, more than 250,000 people in the US die every year because of medical mistakes, making it the third leading cause of death after heart disease and cancer.

As Dr Stuart Farrimond admits in the foreword to his book The Science of Living, "In my seven years in medicine... I was taught to skilfully hide behind a cloak of jargon and science-speak. It was only after stepping back from the profession that I discovered how truly alienated we academic types can make others feel." In summary: if crises do not arise as a byproduct of capitalist accumulation, as they so often do, then they must be invented (just as the inventions of ideologies and caste systems — ‘vaccinated’ versus ‘unvaccinated’ being the latest example — are necessary to justify economic exclusion). The ever-rising demands of capital accumulation make corruption and therefore conspiracy increasingly necessary. As Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: “All warfare is based on deception.” The trouble for capitalism is that it eventually runs out of labour and labour time to exploit and things, land and services to commodify, privatise and atomise. The measures that have been taken to prop up the system can only work for so long.[16] As capital becomes evermore dependent on public debt and state contracts – an obvious recipe for state medical abuse – so the capitalist state becomes evermore dependent on central bank money printing, debasing fiat currency. It is only a matter of time before worldwide hyperinflation erupts.[17] At that point, the military dictatorships and international digital surveillance systems the ruling capitalist class has been putting in place will become naked. Only global socialism,[18] now becoming an economic necessity for the first time — replacing for-profit commodity-produciton with break-even utility-production (thereby bringing about abundant material wealth for all); and the rule of capital with the rule of the people — can begin to end this deepening nightmare.


The footnotes to this essay are too long to post on the same page and are easier to read separately anyway – please see here.

Ted Reese is the author of: Socialism or Extinction: Climate, Automation and War in the Final Capitalist Breakdown | Humanising Production: The Second (Not Fourth) Industrial Revolution and The Bio-Economic Necessity of Socialism | The End of Capitalism: The Thought of Henryk Grossman.

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