Manish Azad is a political activist. That is why he has been a victim to State repression. On February 29, he returned from prison after 8 months. Even before this, he has been writing for Dastak. Here is his article, presenting all the aspects related to the corona virus pandemic. This article is especially important in the context that while US imperialism is blaming China, India is blaming Muslims for the pandemic, this article throws some scientific insight on the causes of this pandemic; so that in the coming times, we can see the development path for our future very clearly.
In Nazi Germany, when a woman named ‘Sophie’ and her two children were brought to the gas chamber by Nazi soldiers, they promised to release one of her two children alive after Sophie’s crying and pleading. But they left this decision on Sofie only. After the success of the novel ‘Sophie’s Choice’ based on this same story in 1979, ‘Sophie’s choice’ itself became an idiom in English. Today, when I look at the world facing a lock-down, absolutely horrified by Corona virus, I remember this phrase. If the lock down increases, the world economy will fall into a pit, crores of people will face an existential crisis, and if the lock down opens, the corona pandemic can claim the lives of millions and millions of people. In almost every country, this dilemma is standing tall. But the real question is how did we reach here? Was it meant to be? Did Corona has to come? Or behind it, is it China’s conspiracy to become a superpower in the world first by killing its own people from Corona and then by killing the whole world. Or is China speaking the truth that America had released this virus in China during the Olympic Games, in order to weaken China? Or is it something else? Let’s do some investigation.
First of all, many prestigious research institutes including the ‘Scripps Research Institute’ have studied the gene structure of Covid-19 and proven that it cannot be manufactured in the laboratory. Therefore, it has evolved by itself, naturally via mutation. So, no country is behind this. This is a new virus in the Corona family itself. SARS of the same family had also wreaked havoc in many countries of the world in 2003–2004. This is Covid-19 SARS-2.
It is said to have originated in Wuhan city of China (though according to a reputed medical journal ‘Lancet’, 13 of the 43 patients of Corona were from outside Wuhan and had no contact with Wuhan’s Corona patients or the ‘wet market’ there). The second story in the media is that the virus spread from Wuhan’s wet market (small market selling fish and meat like our local fish market) to the whole world. The Scripps Research Institute has denied this in their study. According to them, the way COVID-19 has evolved (mutation) and its gene structure, it requires high population density of animals. And this is possible only at places where industrial production of animals take place; where they are kept tightly. Chicken and pork are produced exclusively under similar conditions. It has been said in research that since the immune system of the pigs is relatively closer to that of humans, this COVID-19 has come to humans through pigs. The famous website grain.org, which works in this area, also claims that this propaganda is being done as a part of a conspiracy to shut down Wuhan’s ‘wet market’ on the pretext of Corona because this market avails cheaper meat to the poor and is run by millions of poor people who depend on it for their livelihood (These poor people are the ones whose ‘cooperatives’ and ‘communes’ were broken and their lands were taken away after the collapse of Socialism there and a large variety of industries, including meat industries, and large agro-industrial farms were established). So obviously, this is in the interest of these big meat industries that this wet market is closed and their own market can be expanded further.
Earlier, SARS Corona of the Corona family also killed many people in 2003-2004. This virus comes only from animals to humans. Earlier Swine flu (H1N1) had also killed millions all over the world (more than 1200 people died in the US alone) . It originated in Mexico and was initially named ‘Mexican Flu’ in the same way as COVID-19 is being called as ‘Chinese Corona’ now a days. But since then, much has been known about ‘swine flu’. It came in humans from pigs being produced for industrial production. It started with a pig meat industry in Mexico. The name of this pig meat industry was ‘Smithfield Food Company’. This American company is the world’s third largest pig meat producing and processing company. Every year 28 million pigs are butchered in its various plants and supplied all over the world in many forms (ham, sausage bacon etc.). Its major buyer companies are McDonald, KFC etc. These are also American companies. Just as all the American companies like Apple, Pepsi, Nike, General Motors etc. have set up their plants in China to exploit its cheap labor, this company also has a big plant in China. Danish Crown, the Danish company that is the world’s fifth largest pig meat (pork) producer, ‘Tony’ company of Germany that is the world’s seventh largest company in pig meat production; all have big plants for producing and processing meat in China. From here, this meat is supplied to markets all over the world including China. Companies such as McDonald and KFC are its main buyers. Obviously, Chinese companies are also involved in this race. After the 2008 recession, the world’s largest investor company, Goldman Sachs took over 10 poultry farms in China investing $ 300 million in an effort to diversify its investment. Apart from this, it also has an investment of about $ 200 million in China’s pig industry. Apart from this, a case related to another big American company ‘OSI’ was very much in discussions recently. This company processes chicken’s meat and has 10 big plants in China. It also supplies various forms of meat to world markets including China, through American companies such as McDonald and KFC. It had processed the rotten meat and supplied it to the Chinese market. Due to this, China imposed a huge penalty on this company and sent 10 employees to jail.
This detailing is required so that we can see how much USA and other European countries have a stake in the World Meat trade of about $ 945 billion and its relationship with China.
Now, Let us have a look how production is done here. Upton Sinclair’s famous novel ‘Jungle’ came out in 1906. It painted a very graphic description of the American meat industry. I still remember one of his lines. The author says that here everything is sold except the screams of the pigs. But today the matter has gone even beyond the ‘jungle’. Today, just as shoes, clothes are made in industries, in the same way live animals such as pigs, chicken, etc. are also being produced . They are being produced using various antibiotic drugs, hormones and genetic engineering (so now they are not even allowed to scream as screaming is not in their genes). All types of medicines are given to them to make them grow and age quicker. Because the longer they’ll take to grow, the more they will cost. To reduce the cost, they are kept in close herds in small spaces where it’s difficult to even move. According to capitalist logic, they constantly change their gene structure to reduce production costs. For example- removing the feathers of chicken is an additional task for the industry, in which both labor and time is spent. Therefore such changes are made in their genes that their wings are minimized. In the same way, most individual parts of chickens, pigs and other animals are also packaged and sold in the world, such as chicken’s leg piece. Therefore, such changes are made in these animals’ gene structure that the size of all animals (and the size of their special organs) is almost equal, that is, they are uniform, or otherwise an additional task of weighing and measuring them will be added.
These industrially born animals cannot survive in the natural environment. One has to create an artifcial environment for them. For example, chicken without wings can survive only at a particular temperature. That is, not only animals are made here in an artificial way, but for them to live, an artificial environment is also created.
But what happens in this process is that the resistance/immunity of these animals is almost lost. Darwin’s law of ‘natural selection’ does not apply here. It is replaced by ‘capitalist selection’. In this situation, when viruses like the Corona comes in contact with these animals, it is easierfor them to flourish (i.e. to mutate) and to spread at a fast pace due to thousands of animals in the herd together. On the other hand, when these animals grow relatively far away from each other in their natural environment in a natural way, their immunity get strong and it varies individually. In such a situation, when a virus comes in contact with them, it is very difficult for them to grow and spread. In a way, many firewalls stand in front of the virus. And through natural selection, the animals that can fight the virus better are selected and flourishes. But when they are produced industrially under market pressure, the virus gets ‘a red carpet’ to spread and develop rapidly (mutate). Through the people working in these industries, it then spreads to the whole society and eventually to the world, in this period of globalization. Due to production at the industrial level, lakhs of people, especially the laborers working in these industries, are constantly in contact with these animals and these viruses for 12-14 hours. Because of so many people being together for so long in such conditions, there are much possibilities of the virus mutating inside them. The relationship between COVID-19 virus and many earlier viruses like SARS, Ebola, Swine Flu, Zika, MER etc. with such industrial meat production is quite clear now. Zoologist Rob Wallace, author of a famous book ‘Big Farms Make Big Flu, says- “Anyone who aims to understand why viruses are becoming more dangerous must investigate the industrial model of agriculture and, more specifically, livestock production. In one word, one has to understand Capitalism. ”
Rob Wallace also says some where else that these companies not only produce meat but also cultivate Viruses causing serious disease. Almost the same situation is in agriculture as well. In fact, because of the simple gene structure of plants, gene technology is being used extensively here. Apart from this, the way ‘pesticides’ and ‘herbicides’ (insecticides and weedicides) are being used extensively in farming, not only have they contributed towards global warming, it has also brought a decisive and qualitative change in the entire atmosphere of the earth. Soybean flour is given to feed pigs, the Amazon forests were cleared in Brazil for this soybean cultivation. As a result, not only the balance of the environment was affected, but humans also came in contact with such viruses, which previously stayed locally in untouched forests. The complex structure of nature keeps many dangerous viruses in their local ‘house’. According to a scientific research, the way the Amazon forests are being cleared, due to this, in the next 15 years, the Amazon carbon-absorbing zone will become an area of Carbon emissions. When in capitalist greed we interfere in this natural complex structure and make it uniform, then in a way we create a royal passage for these viruses. In the same process, capitalist industrial farming has evicted crores of people from their farms all over the world, trapped them in a debt trap (as a result, farmers are forced to commit suicides) and poisoned the entire environment. It is an astonishing fact that most of the companies in the seed and pesticide fields today were engaged in the production of poisonous gases used in the First and Second World Wars and the Vietnam War. Whereas companies such as DuPont, Monsanto, Dow Chemical, etc., supplied poisonous gases to the United States and allied countries, leading pesticide sector companies like ‘Bayer’ have been supplying poisonous gasses to Hitler. Dow Chemical and Monsanto supplied the infamous ‘Agent Orange’ gas and the ‘Napalm Bomb’ to the US Army during the Vietnam War. In ‘the era of peace’, now these companies are using the same toxic chemicals against the environment in the form of pesticides. The famous agricultural scientist ‘Devinder Sharma’, quoting a research paper published in a reputed journal, has said that 99.9 per cent of pesticides go directly into the environment, only 0.1 per cent hit their target. Due to this 99.9 percent, a number of friendly bacteria and other beneficial animals like earthworms are gone. The relationship between the growing number of cancer patients in the country’s Punjab province and the pesticides used in the fields is no longer hidden from anyone. The name of the train running from Bhatinda to Bikaner Cancer Hospital has been named ‘Cancer Express’. With this, if ‘Geo-Engineering’ and ‘War Industry’ are included, then the Situaion becomes very frightening.
This year is the 200th birth anniversary of Engels. Marx & Engels understood this trend of capitalism in their time and included it in their study of capitalism. Engels has warned, “at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature — but that we, with flesh, blood, and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other beings of being able to know and correctly apply its laws.”
Before capitalism, whatever class system was there, it used to exploit only labor. Capitalism is the first class system that exploits labor as well as nature. And the entire human race has to bear the consequences.
Between 2011 and 2018, WHO has identified a total of 1483 epidemics in 172 countries. Based on the study of these viruses (mainly influenza, SARS, MERS, Ebola, Zika, plague, yellow fever etc.), the GPMB (Global Preparedness Monitoring Board) gave an accurate warning of the outbreak of pandemics like today’s Corona in September 2019 itself. The name of the report was ‘A world at risk’ but there was no one to take care of this report. Even before the SARS pandemic in 2003–2004, scientists had issued a warning that a virus of the Corona family could take a more dangerous form in the future. The World Health Organization warned public health organizations of all countries three years ago that a particular virus could cause a terrible pandemic and all governments would have to prepare for it. Listening to these warnings meant researching it and strengthening public health services for future preparation. But when this imperialist-capitalist system is itself in the ‘ICU’ after the recession of 2007-2008, who would prepare for the future? World capitalism worth $ 90 trillion economy is groaning under a debt of $ 270 trillion. In most countries of the world, whatever was ‘public’ has been destroyed in the storm of privatization. Everything has gone into private hands. Most countries have destroyed their government health services. The documentaries by ‘Michael Moore’ and ‘John Pilger’ can be seen to understand how the United States and Britain have destroyed government health services. On the other hand, why private companies should do research in the fields in which there is no immediate profit. This can be clearly understood by an example. In a leaked e-mail from a company doing research on gene therapy, its funder ‘Goldman Sachs’ said that curing the gene forever and ending the disease is not a ‘sustainable business model’. Because it eliminates the possibility of continuous profits. The truth is that the world on which Corona wreaked havoc in the beginning of 2020, has already been hollowed by the ‘termite’ of the neo-liberal system of the past 30 years. You can understand the reality of the world with just two facts – we have the equipment to destroy the Earth 9 times, but there is a huge shortage of life-giving ventilators. This severe lack of ventilators is becoming a major cause of people dying from Corona. Second, the total wealth of the world’s 2153 trillionaires is equal to the total wealth of 4060 million people in the world. This is the reason that America, which is the architect of this neoliberal system, is currently in the worst position and in contrast, Cuba with a different socio-economic system is in the best position. Cuba has not only taken Corona under control, but is at the forefront in the fight against Corona with its doctors and drugs in 62 countries of the world. When America is sending military and tanks to other countries, Cuba is sending its doctors and medicines. It is the difference of two opposite social systems that one is exporting death and the other, life.
In fact, as the famous writer Naomi Klein has said, when faced with a disaster like earthquake, storm or a epidemic, the ruling class does not leave its ideology but holds on to it. Therefore, in such a disaster also, it sees its class interest and future profits. Its repressed desires also emerge at this time and it makes every effort to fulfill them. 2019 was a year of great protest demonstrations and movements. Many political analysts began to compare 2019 with 1848 and 1968. This year, none of the corners of the earth were untouched by large mass movements. The public protests in India against CAA were taking place during this period. Under the pretext of Corona, the ruling class has succeeded in putting an end to all these movements immediately. The death of such large-scale political demonstrations all over the world on the pretext of Corona is nothing short of the deaths by Corona, of which newspapers around the world are full today. You know how Shaheen Bagh’s protest have beenended in our own country!
In order to save their profit margins due to recession all over the world, companies were hell bent on retrenchment of their workers and employees. But they were facing opposition. Corona gave them this great opportunity. The real figures of how many people have been laid off in this time will come later. But we can only guess it from some facts. In the US alone, 1 Crore 80 lakh people have applied for unemployment allowance in the last 2 months. This is the highest since the Great Depression of 1929– 30.
The manner in which the governments of the world have adopted dictatorial methods in this Corona time is a manifestation of their oppressive desires. Many countries, including Hungary, have directly declared a state of emergency. In our country India too, Modi has clearly spoken of a ‘social emergency’. In fact the situation is worse in third world countries like India. On March 21, state police attacked and killed 23 inmates seeking better conditions to deal with Corona in Colombia’s Bagota prison. The number of people killed by police shots on the streets of Kenya is more than those who died from Corona. It would have been a big news in normal times. But nobody paid attention to it in Corona times. The governments of the world, together with internet companies, have virtually transformed their countries into ‘aquariums’ on the pretext of dealing with Corona. Every action of the citizens is being monitored. There would have been a lot of resistance against it in normal times but now it is becoming a ‘New Normal’. Surveillance capitalism in its barest form is in front of us today. ‘1984’ film is no longer fiction but reality. The funny thing is that this film was made to discredit socialism, but today capitalism is standing far more successfully on the film’s expectations. Concept of ‘thought police’ and ‘thought crime’ has become a reality, at least in countries like India. I learnt while writing this line itself that Kailash Bhatt of ‘Inquilabi Mazdoor Kendra’ was arrested after he posted about the government’s failure on Corona on Facebook.
Mainstream media is also constantly emphasizing that Corona does not differentiate between the rich and the poor. But as always, this time also it is wrong. Corona is taking complete care of all economic & social divisions. If we look at only the figures of America, then 70 percent of the deaths are of Blacks and African-Americans. Now many institutions have started giving data on social mobility in Corona time based on phone location. Nearly 10 percent of people in the United States and Europe reported zero mobility. That is, they are successfully in their homes. At the same time, mobility was witnessed at many levels among the bottom 30 percent of people. This mobile population is becoming the biggest victim of Corona; those who have to be this mobile for their livelihood. That is, they have to leave their house. In this context, you can also see Rana Ayyub’s article ‘Social Distancing is a Privilege’. Social distancing is a joke in all the slums of India and the world.
Actually, only after the flood waters pass away, the real ugliness of the area becomes visible. Only after Corona leaves, will the real ugliness of this system can be seen. But there are many things that you can see in the flood waters as well. The Spanish Ministry of Health issued a secret guideline that those above 60 years should not be admitted to the ICU. Instead, priority should be given to young patients. The Governor of Texas State of America, Dan Patrick, said even more mercilessly that the old people should give their lives for the American economy and the young generation. In an interview given to the business magazine Bloomberg by the American billionaire Tom Galisano, further enhanced this narrative. He said that it is better that some people die than to shut down the economy. The Prime Minister of England went even further that if people die, then only heard immunity will develop against Corona. Probably Corona liked this point a lot and today he himself is in ICU in a hospital at London. These statements are reminiscent of Churchill’s statement that he gave on the 1942 famine in India. Churchill said that Indians were increasing their population like rats, which will be controlled by this famine.
Let us now have a look at India. Those who would not have viewed the Diwali of April 5 with devotion (or Bhakti as it is called) may have realized that the formal democracy of India on this day has turned into a real Idiocracy. Few lines from Mirza Ghalib’s poetry cits very accurately on the Indian ruling classes – Marz Badhta Hi Gaya Jyon-Jyon Davaa Ki (The disease kept on growing as I took the medicine). Let’s recall Demonetisation. The demonetisation was formally done so that black money comes into hold. After demonetisation, all the black money became white. More banknotes were returned than the notes deposited. But this insanity of a dictator took away the livelihood of crores of people and derailed India’s economy. In the same way, the conditions created after the 24th March lockdown, helped to spread the corona even better. Millions of migrant laborers were forced to do a ‘reverse long march.’ These people, thirsty in the sun and rain, would have become easier victims of Corona. In a few Shelter Homes, people are cramped up like they used to live in their labor settlements. Many quarantine centers along the roads and the villages became centers of snakes and scorpions. Most quarantine centers are virtually jails. Where millions of people have been kept without any crime. All of them are easy victims of Corona. Yes, the upper and middle class is definitely safe in their own homes. In India, social distancing is actually class distancing. The real motive behind this is to increase the distancebetween the upper & middle class and the poor, while giving Corona its way towards the poor.
In all their interviews, these workers who have come on the roads have said that they are not afraid of Corona as much as of starvation and police canes. These helpless workers are not happily returning to their villages. They are returning to those villages where 31 farmers commit suicide every day. Even in such a time of crisis, the way the police is treating the workers on the streets, showering them with lathis, making them do squats, it is extremely indecent and exposes the class/caste bias of the ruling class and its sadist character.
What can be a better example of the intellectual bankruptcy of the Uttar Pradesh government that it decided to release 11000 prisoners as per the Supreme Court order on account of Corona, but even more people were arrested in jails for alleged violations of lockdown. With this, you can understand the intellectually bankrupt way of working of the government. Actually, the Government of India has no strategy or any preparation. They don’t even have any reliable figures. Yes, Modi government knows how to turn every occasion into a celebration, even if it is mourning weeds. And they are doing a great job at it. Imitating European countries, the Indian government abruptly shut down without any preparation. But even imitation must have some improvisation. Soon after the announcement of the lockdown at eight o’clock, the public came down to the shops in large numbers, defying all norms of social distancing. Students living in hostels – youth and temporary workers came in huge numbers to the bus stations and railway stations. Seeing this, it can be said that this was done just to save the upper and middle class from Corona and serve the poor laborers to the lion named Corona.
In India, 4 lakh people die of TB every year. One of the major reasons of this is poverty. This lockdown will further increase this poverty (The latest report of ILO says that after the lockdown, 400 million population of India will plunge further into the pit of poverty) and the number of people dying from TB may increase this year. How effective is this strategy to save 1 person from corona and in turn kill 4 people with TB. In this corona time OPD of almost all hospitals is closed. A hospital like AIIMS in Delhi has shut down its OPD. Serious patients of cancer are also not being treated. All cancer patients are waiting for their deaths around AIIMS and other hospitals in Delhi. Most doctors running private clinics have closed their clinics, taking care of their own safety. Perhaps this figure will never come to sight that how many Corona patients we saved and how many other sick people we killed as a result of all this. After all, what can India do? In the last decades, we have lost our time in doing Hindu-Muslim only. The rest of our work has been done by imperialist institutions like the World Bank, IMF, or America. And the result of that ‘beautiful’ work is that today we have 1 government MBBS doctor per 10,000 people. There is only half of one bed for 1000 people (in many hospitals, often two people with serious illness lay on the same bed). There is not a single ventilator in 18 districts of Bihar. Due to these circumstances, 5 Crore 5 lakh people in India go below the poverty line every year just because of health expenditure. India was not prepared for an pandemic like Corona in any sense. But the media here is ready for everything. It was also pre-prepared for Corona. It first targeted China for Corona, rhyming in with the US, but when India had to ask China for ‘ventilators’ and ‘testing kits’, the media stopped their campaign in the middle and turn to their favorite enemy Muslims and broke the entire blame of Corona on the Muslims. The IT Cells of the Sangh have also made full use of the lock down, playing the role of Corona themselves and they are leaving no chance to infect people. The government gets a chance to avenge the role of Muslims in the CAA. Who can forget the video released on the Twitter handle of ‘Rana Ayyub’, where police is showering lathis at Muslims while coming out of a mosque. How many Muslims and Muslim settlements were quarantined because of Corona and how many of them were quarantined solely due to them being Muslims, is no longer hidden from anyone. When the whole world is studying the genome of the Corona virus, we are engaged in the study of the religion of Corona.
In fact, in a poor country like India, where 94 percent of the labor force is working in the unorganized sector, more than half of the population is living in terrible poverty, the entire lockdown cannot be a right decision. There should have been more and more tests and based on these tests, local lockdowns / quarantine should have been resorted to. But the truth is that India is able to conduct only 137 tests per 10 lakh people. It is important to mention here that many tests of the same person are also included in this tally, like Kanika Kapoor has already done 7 tests so far. Even Pakistan and Sri Lanka are better than us, which is 262 and 152 respectively while Italy and Germany stand around 15,000/10 lakh.
Today in Corona time, even though the voice of those forces is being suppressed which were constantly raising the issues of environment, health, poverty, water-forest-land, which were questioning the existence of this inhuman system and were also fighting in their own way, but in later times this voice will be heard even more loudly. In the 14th century, when Europe was hit by an pandemic called plague and one-third of Europe’s population died, a significant result was that the common people lost faith in the Church and this significantly contributed to the renaissance in Europe, which resulted in many bourgeois revolutions. Will it happen this time too? Eduardo Galeano said that history never really says goodbye. History says, ‘See you later.’
No matter how dark the night is, there is always a chirm of morning in it. I feel like repeating these multi-fold lines of Charles Dickens’ famous novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ – “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”