Because capitalism is working towards its own abolition by replacing commodity-producing labour with automated machines, the profitability of capital is increasingly dependent on low wages, public debt, state orders, the centralisation of wealth, and — frankly — depopulation.
Whether you believe that covid-19 broke out as a result of environmental and habitat destruction (a symptom of capitalism’s ever-greater dependence on extractive production); that the infection and death rates have been inflated by sleights of hand to justify lockdowns and a profit-motivated vaccine arms race; that the outbreak was planned bioterrorism all along; or that there is no proof that covid-19 even exists as a novel virus (on the basis that it has apparently never been isolated; see here also); one thing is undeniable: given the dire state of the world economy, the timing of the pandemic could not have been more convenient for the ruling class and the needs of capital accumulation.
Doubts about the severity or veracity of covid-19; and concerns about the safety and effectiveness of rushed vaccination programmes that cannot be smugly dismissed as anti-vaxxer hysteria have been widely discussed and debated elsewhere. What has not been covered convincingly, at leastly widely, is an analysis of why the ruling class might have resorted to any conspiracy (or at least such a level of rank opportunism), and why now exactly (with the World Economic Forum speaking of a ‘Great Reset’; and one of its 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 power, land and wealth. These grabs are certainly happening, but stopping there does not get to the root of the issue. The root of the issue? The demands of capital accumulation.
Capitalism is a system that needs to keep expanding production to keep the accumulation of capital rising; and to offset the general rate of profit’s tendency to fall (it trended down from an estimated 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 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. The system suffers from a rising overaccumulation, or surplus, of capital, that which cannot be reinvested profitably in production.
Wages must be slashed to rewiden 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 (often through speculation). The bigger companies buy up smaller companies (preferably ones that have gone bust on the cheap) and monopolise industry. And debt rises to ‘fill the gap’ left by the insufficient amount of surplus value that capital appropriates from workers and realises through commodity sales.
Capitalism has now entered its deepest ever crisis. A decade of savage austerity after the financial crash of 2007–09— whereby governments redirected large portions of public spending into subsidising capital — proved inadequate. Capital required a deeper depression. The lockdown induced, for example, Britain’s worst recession since 1709 (an economic contraction of around 30%, 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, was already grinding to a halt — Germany’s economic growth in August 2019 was 0.1%; Britain’s 0.2% — before the hardest ever stock market crash on 19 February 2020.
Even before the financial crash, world debt had reached mountainous heights. It has since continued to hit new highs for so-called ‘peace time’ — the US, UK and Europe are of course waging endless wars on the Middle East and elsewhere — with the spending on the pandemic (rising subsidies for capital; enforcing lockdowns) reaching world-war-like proportions. 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 abolising the source of profit, i.e. capital’s exploitation of commodity-producing labour.
The depth of the crisis of accumulation is such that the centralisation of capital is accelerating at an extraordinary 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 to retain enough support for the government of the day and capitalism in general from the general population.
Whether covid-19 is real or not, exaggerated or not, the same is now true of ‘Big Pharma’. Some 97% of the funding behind the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine came from public sources. 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 facilities. Big Pharma needed something like a state-mandated mass vaccination programme to remain profitable. (The pandemic has also been a boon for the much-maligned plastics industry, with the world going through an extra 130 billion masks and 65 billion gloves a month, much of it ending up in the sea.) 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 marketing firms) after a year of denied education and social development.
Corruption has gone into overdrive, of course, with covid-related contracts handed to private companies (rich ‘donors’ of political parties) without any oversight, due dilligence or competition. Conflicts of interest among the UK government’s covid-19 advisors were covered up, although it later emerged chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance has a £600,000 shareholding in GlaxoSmithKline, which has been contracted for a vaccine. 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.)
If governments really cared about public health, they would nationalise pharmaceutical companies and health care (which has been increasingly privatised and rationed over the past 40 years, the reason hospitals get overwhelmed every flu season). They would not be sending untested and infected patients into care homes (which have been starved of resources have been turned into de facto prisons) and covering this up “to protect commercial interests”. (This smacks of eugenics, as did austerity and 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. Slashing pensions and other expenses on the elderly and disabled means such expenditure can be transferred into 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.) They would not be allowing an “evictions avalanche”. They would be taking pollution reduction, which causes one in five deaths (isn’t this a worse kind of pandemic?), far more seriously, instead of ‘failing’ to wind down subsidies for fossil fuel companies .They would be reducing extractive production and ramping up investment in nuclear, hemp and mycelium production instead of expanding deforestation and habitat destruction.
If the virus is really so deadly (the survival rate is about 99.8%) and they really wanted to stamp it out, they would be making sure poorer countries (which they make poor in the first place) had access to vaccines. Instead, they are putting off waiving patent rights for as long as possible to keep prices as high as possible for as long as possible, while working out ways to defeat protections and competition from vaccine makers in Russia and China. (Not to mention to generate prejudice against unvaccinated potential migrants, a classic case of racist divide and rule tactics.)
Numerous studies have argued that ‘lockdowns’ (read social enclosure) are much more harmful to public health than covid-19 and aren’t especially effective at suppressing transmission (when the peaks and troughs of the virus followed seasonal flu patterns; and flu miraculously disappeared with covid-19 numbers at their peak).
But (despite the claims of social democrats like Owen Jones) lockdowns suit monopoly capital perfectly. They have been used to depress wages through mass unemployment and furlough schemes (a direct public subsidy to capital) that do not pay full rates; and to wipe out swathes of small and medium capital that can be bought up on the cheap by monopoly capital. Much of the workplace has been moved to the home, saving capital costs on office space; pushing running costs such as electricity and water onto workers; and deepening 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. Confined to the home, or at least unable to wander far from it, we have been made evermore dependent on online shopping. Amazon and co have cashed in while increasing the rate of exploitation of their warehouse and courier workers. Meanwhile, general GP, hospital and surgery appointments have nosedived, enabling money spent on these public services to be redirected to subsidising capital, or at least easing pressure on tax bases.
Disenfraching the masses (not that we ever had much say on anything, other than voting for middle and upper class ‘representatives’ who break their manifesto pledges every few years) and torching their civil rights has never been an easy task (especially today, with a world population of seven billion people). It is much easier, however, if you can convince the majority of people that giving up their civil rights, supporting a war, and so on, is in their own interests or for the greater good. People were convinced to go along with World War I under the impression it would be over by Christmas. Four years later, millions of people had been savagely killed. Now we are told ‘normality’ can only return by agreeing to lockdowns, rushed vaccination programmes and — quite probably — discrimatory and racist health passports.
The ruling class knows that what it needs to do to keep capital accumulation going is going to impoverish more and more people and therefore create more and more opposition. It will go to any lengths necessary 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; while destroying the habitability of the planet — and to justify attacks on democracy, freedom of speech, the right to protest and other civil rights (despite saying that protests, raves and crowded beaches have not caused infection spikes).
The social democratic ‘left’ (including some nominal communist organisations) is mostly opposed to banning the right to peaceful protest during the pandemic but not the covid-19/lockdown legislation that has effectively already banned that right. Much of the left supported such legislation on the basis that it would be temporary. How naive. Yet this section of the left keeps demanding that authoritarian right-wing governments impose harder lockdowns, enabling the far right to pin the brutality of lockdowns on the left. (While Boris Johnson was supposedly resisting the left’s demands to impose lockdown, the UK government struck a deal worth £119m with an American advertising company, OMD Group, urging people to ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ a full three weeks before a lockdown was imposed.)
On 24 April 2021, however, a diverse protest of hundreds of thousands of people in London, for example, marched against vaccine passports and lockdowns (an event that was largely censored or smeared by the BBC, ITV and Sky). This was not a ‘left-wing’ protest— ‘the left’ 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 other mass protests that arise ‘spontaneously’ (such as the football fan protests against the European Superleague) to win 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.”
So 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; and is making life increasingly miserable for almost everyone. As Marx and Engels wrote in 1844, “The goal of the capitalist economic system is the unhappiness of society.”
Outbreaks of disease are features of collapsing empires and the more capitalism continues to destroy the environment, the more likely the possibility of further pandemics. But the profit motive — or, rather, the profit necessity — do make it hard to trust capitalist health care. For one thing, there is little profit to be made in preventative or curative health care (hence why there has been next to no progress in anti-biotics since the 1980s, contributing to the growing threat of anti-biotics-resistant infection). Health problems that arise from the social conditions created by capitalism are often medicalised, i.e. treated as medical, not social issues.
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 are necessary to justify economic exclusion). The ever-rising demands of capital accumulation make corruption and therefore conspiracy increasingly necessary.
The measures that have been taken to prop up capital can only work for so long, though. As capital becomes more dependent on public debt, so the state becomes more dependent on central bank money printing, debasing fiat currency. It is only a matter of time before worldwide hyperinflation erupts.
Only global socialism, now becoming an economic necessity for the first time — replacing for-profit commodity-produciton with break-even utility-production; and the rule of capital with the rule of the people — will end this deepening nightmare.
Ted Reese is author of Socialism or Extinction: Climate, Automation and War in the Final Capitalist Breakdown
 The World Wildlife Fund puts the spread of zoonotic diseases down to “the trade and consumption of high-risk wildlife; deforestation and conversion; expansion of agriculture and unsustainable intensification and animal production”. Monoculture contributes by denying animals the normality of co-evolving with nature, causing harmless microbes to transform into diseases. The outbreak is said to have come from bats in a wildlife market in Wuhan, China, but it is possible that China was just the first to report it — the virus is also said to have been present in the US a month beforehand (WSJ.com, 1 December). Some have pointed out that the Military Games took place in Wuhan in 2019.
 See Dr John Lee, “The way ‘covid deaths’ are being counted is a national scandal,” Spectator.co.uk, 28 May 2020; Iain Davis, UK Column, “Is covid-19 a hoax?, 21 February 2021; and “A deceptive construction — why we must question the covid-19 mortality statistics,” 28 March 2021.
In April 2021 the official UK figure was suddenly reduced by some 23%.
 See, for example: “Will covid-19 vaccines save lives? Current trials aren’t designed to tell us”, British Medical Journal, 22 October; “Informed consent disclosure to vaccine trial subjects of risk of covid‐19 vaccines worsening clinical disease”, International Journal of Clinical Practice, 28 October; “Unlicensed vaccine manufacturers are immune from some, but not all, civil liability”, Full Fact, 4 September; “Victims of swine flu jab to get £60m payout”, TheTimes.co.uk, 2 March 2014; “Important advice issued over AstraZeneca symptoms,” Birmingham Live, 7 May 2021. “Doctors fear COVID-19 vaccines are messing with mammograms,” LA Times, 12 March 2021 (“Radiologists have long known that a recent dose of vaccine for shingles, tetanus or flu can cause lymph nodes to appear slightly swollen. But the sudden appearance of so many swollen lymph nodes, in so many women, came as a shock. In many cases, so was the size of the swelling. ‘They seemed to be more prominent,’ said Dr. Constance Lehman, chief of breast imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. ‘We had seen mildly enlarged nodes with prior vaccinations but not to this degree.’)
An alleged cache of email exchanges between EU officials and the European Medicines Agency showed the drug regulator was uncomfortable about fast-tracking approval for the Pfizer and Moderna jabs (Le Monde, 18 January).
Accumulation demands a faster turnover and circulation of capital during economic crisis. The pressure on workers from management to ignore health and safety regulations therefore tends to rise. There is no reason to think this would not apply to vaccine production. When BBC Panorama exposed the cross-contamination of samples in a covid testing lab being ignored (thereby inflating positive test results), you had to wonder if workers on low-paid temporary contracts had been threatened with the sack if they reported cross-contamination.
(NB: I am not an anti-vaxxer, but remain sceptical in this case, especially when they are being so aggressively marketed to young, white-collar workers and their kids, i.e. the lowest risk demographic for a virus with an infection survival rate of 99.77%, rising to 99.95% for under-70s (according to this Stanford University/WHO meta-analysis, which says that, “If one could sample equally from all locations globally, the median infection fatality rate might even be substantially lower” since the fatality rate is lower among the younger populations of Africa and Asia); especially when the most vulnerable people it is supposed to protect are being thrown out of hospitals and into care homes, seeding the virus among the most vulnerable, while care homes are being starved of resources; especially when they have not been granted full approval and have only been allowed on the market under an emergency authorization; and especially when the vaccines are being made by companies responsible for the opioid crisis, like Pfizer, which has paid out numerous huge settlements over alleged defective products and been accused of selling products causing kidney problems, breast cancer, strokes, blood clots, heart attacks, birth defects, and severe bleeding (not to mention its unauthorised trials in Nigeria which led to the deaths of 11 children; or $2.3bn fine for illegally promoting off-label drugs); or like Johnson & Johnson (a company wealthier than New Zealand or Hungary), which knew for decades that asbestos lurked in its Baby Powder. Indeed, the rollout of the J&J vaccine was suspended after six women aged 18–48 experienced blood clots.)
Between December 14, 2020 and April 23, 2021 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System reported that adverse reactions to covid-19 vaccines, including Moderna and Pfizer’s, hit 3,544 deaths and 12,619 serious injuries, an unprecedented high for any vaccination programme in the US. In comparison, there are 20 to 30 deaths reported every year to VAERS related to the flu shot. Previous studies, including one from Harvard University, estimate that only 1-10% of all vaccine-related deaths get reported to VAERS. According to Dr. Peter McCullough: “A typical new drug at about five deaths, unexplained deaths, we get a black-box warning, your listeners would see it on TV, saying it may cause death. And then at about 50 deaths it’s pulled off the market.” Swine flu vaccines in 1976 were pulled after 500 cases of paralysis and 25 deaths. “On 8 March the CDC announced on their website with very little fanfare, that they had reviewed about 1,600 deaths with unnamed FDA doctors and they indicated not a single death was related to the vaccine. I think that was concerning in the academic community. I have chaired and participated in dozens of data safety monitoring boards and sat on those committees and I can tell you that this type of work would have taken many months to review all the labs, the death certificates and all the circumstances of an event. It is impossible for unnamed regulatory doctors without any experience with COVID 19 to opine that none of the deaths were related to the vaccine. I think this was effectively a scrubbing, like we’ve seen elsewhere. There is a Trusted News Initiative, which is very important for Americans to understand, this was announced 10 Dec., and this is a coalition of all the major media and government stakeholders in vaccination, where they are not going to allow any negative information about vaccines to get into the popular media because they’re concerned about vaccine hesitancy, that if Americans got any type of fair, balanced coverage on safety events then they simply would not come forward and get the vaccine. A lot of Americans don’t understand how tight these stakeholders are. Keep in mind the NIH [National Institutes of Health] is a co-owner of the Moderna patent, so they have a vested financial interest in keeping these vaccines going.”
One testifying biologist has claimed that “there is credible reason to believe” that the vaccines could lead to “impaired fertility”. Dr Michael Yeadon, a former Pfizer employee, has claimed, believing that this may be motivated by the perception/ideology of overpopulation: “I know enough about biotechnology to know that you can easily create, shall we say, pathogens, which don’t look like they’re related to what you’ve done. And what’s even more horrifying is you can separate them in time, so an injection which will later make you ill or kill you can be separated by design in time from that event. So you might die a year later of liver cancer or something and you wouldn’t connect that. And if you can imagine making a smorgasbord of different pathogens so not everybody is going to die of the same thing, you literally could do away with big slices of the population if you want. And we could all be running around like headless chickens. This is an attempt on global depopulation.”
Whether you believe these claims or think that they are themselves part of a psychological operation, there is no doubt that the ruling class has access to more sophisticated and subtle forms of killing than anything Hitler ever had (and Nazi Germany managed to keep his extermination camps secret from the majority of the population for a long time). In an article discussing the development of ‘self-spreading vaccines’, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists says:
“The principal security concern is that of dual-use. In essence, this means that the same research that is used to develop self-spreading vaccines to prevent disease, could also be used to deliberately cause harm. You could, for instance, engineer triggers into a virus that cause immune system failures in infected people or animals, a bit like HIV does naturally. Or you could create triggers in a virus that cause a harmful autoimmune response, where the body starts attacking its own healthy cells and tissues.
While researchers may intend to make self-spreading vaccines, others could repurpose their science and develop biological weapons. Such a self-spreading weapon may prove uncontrollable and irreversible.
We don’t have to dig very deep for a historical example of weaponized biology. As the apartheid-era South African biowarfare program shows, social, political, and scientific pressures can lead to the misuse of biological innovation.
Codenamed Project Coast, South Africa’s program was primarily focused on covert assassination weapons for use against individuals deemed a threat to the racist apartheid government. In addition to producing contraptions to inject poisons, Project Coast researchers developed techniques to lace sugar cubes with salmonella and cigarettes with Bacillus anthracis.
While there have been many biowarfare programs, including several that were far more elaborate and sophisticated, the South African program is particularly relevant in thinking through malicious uses of self-spreading vaccines. One of Project Coast’s research projects aimed at developing a human anti-fertility vaccine.
The idea took hold during a time of widespread concern over worldwide population explosion. Schalk Van Rensburg, who oversaw fertility-related work at a Project Coast laboratory, told South Africa’s post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a forum for examining the sordid history of the era and laying the foundation for future peace and tolerance, that he thought the project was in line with the World Health Organization’s attempts to curb rising global birth rates. He believed it could bring his lab international acclaim and funding. According to Van Rensburg, Wouter Basson, the director of the biowarfare program, said the military needed an anti-fertility vaccine so that female soldiers would not fall pregnant… [and] that the real intention behind the project was to selectively administer the contraceptive in secret to unwitting Black South African women.
In the end, the anti-fertility vaccine was not produced before Project Coast was officially closed down in 1995, 12 years after it was initiated. An early version was tested in baboons, but never in humans. South Africa isn’t the only country to try and forcibly sterilize parts of its population. European countries, including Sweden and Switzerland, sterilized members of the Roma minority in the early half of the 20th century and some, like Slovakia, continued even beyond that…”
In 2002 it was revealed that in Britain,
“the Ministry of Defence turned large parts of the country into a giant laboratory to conduct a series of secret germ warfare tests on the public. A government report just released provides for the first time a comprehensive official history of Britain’s biological weapons trials between 1940 and 1979.
Many of these tests involved releasing potentially dangerous chemicals and micro-organisms over vast swaths of the population without the public being told.
While details of some secret trials have emerged in recent years, the 60-page report reveals new information about more than 100 covert experiments.
The report reveals that military personnel were briefed to tell any ‘inquisitive inquirer’ the trials were part of research projects into weather and air pollution.
The tests, carried out by government scientists at Porton Down, were designed to help the MoD assess Britain’s vulnerability if the Russians were to have released clouds of deadly germs over the country.
In most cases, the trials did not use biological weapons but alternatives which scientists believed would mimic germ warfare and which the MoD claimed were harmless. But families in certain areas of the country who have children with birth defects are demanding a public inquiry.”
 The Myth of Capitalism: Monopolies and the Death of Competition (2018) by Jonathan Tepper and Denise Hearn found that: four corporations control 90% of American beer; four airlines completely dominate airline traffic, often enjoying complete local monopolies in their regional ‘hubs’; five banks control half of US banking assets; in many states, the top two insurance companies have 80–90% market share between them; 75% of US households can only access one monopoly provider for high-speed internet; four companies control the entire US beef market; three companies control both 70% of the global pesticide market and 80% of the US corn-seed market; Google’s share of internet search traffic is 90%; and so on. “The scale of mergers is so extreme,” write the idealist right-libertarian authors, “that you would almost think American capitalists were trying to prove Karl Marx right.” Wiley, New York, 2018, p. xv-10.
 Average GDP growth rates in what the World Bank defines as ‘high income countries’ are already closing in on zero, having fallen every decade apart from the last one for the past half century: from 5.59% in the 1960s, to 4.15% in the 1970s; 2.93% in the 1980s; 2.35% in the 1990s; and 1.78% in the 2000s. The figure rose slightly to 2.1% in the 2010s, but this minor reprieve, based on murderous austerity measures and record levels of debt, has already proven to be unsustainable. My calculation. Source: WorldBank.org data: GDP growth (annual %) — High income.
 See: Bendavid et al, European Journal of Clinical Investigation (“there is no evidence that more restrictive non-pharmaceutical interventions (‘lockdowns’) contributed substantially to bending the curve of new cases in England, France, Germany, Iran, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, or the United States in early 2020”; Chaudry et al, The Lancet (“government actions such as border closures, full lockdowns, and a high rate of covid-19 testing were not associated with statistically significant reductions in the number of critical cases or overall mortality”); Kuhbandner et al, University of Regensburg (“official data from Germany’s RKI agency suggest strongly that the spread of the coronavirus receded autonomously, before any interventions become effective”); Wood, University of Edinburgh (“the decline in infections in England… began before full lockdown… [S]uch a scenario would be consistent with… Sweden, which began its decline in fatal infections shortly after the UK, but did so on the basis of measures well short of full lockdown”); Homburg and Kuhbandner, datascienceassn.org (“Flaxman et al allege that non-pharmaceutical interventions imposed by 11 European countries saved millions of lives. We show that their methods involve circular reasoning.”); Rice, British Medical Journal (“the addition of interventions restricting younger people might actually increase the total number of deaths from covid-19”); Cohen and Lipsitch, HHS Public Access (“interventions that reduce but do not eliminate exposure can paradoxically increase the number of cases of severe disease by shifting the burden of infection toward older individuals”); Woolf et al, JAMA (“restrictions imposed by the pandemic (e.g. stay-at-home orders) could claim lives indirectly through delayed care for acute emergencies, exacerbations of chronic diseases, and psychological distress (e.g. drug overdoses). In 14 states, more than 50% of excess deaths were attributed to underlying causes other than covid-19”); Karáth, BMJ; “(Belarus’s President… [who has recently fended off a US-backed coup] refused to impose a lockdown, close schools, or cancel mass events… Yet the country’s death rate is among the lowest in Europe”); Thomas et al, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism (“the negative consequences… are so extreme… they should be eliminated from serious consideration”); Letizia et al, New England Journal of Medicine; De Larochelambert, Frontiers in Public Health; Gibson, New Zealand Economic Papers.)
The social impact of lockdowns on human relationships is extremely worrying given the share of men under 30 who aren’t having sex tripled in the 12 years following the financial crash. In France, births were down year-on-year by 13% in January 2021. For France, a country that has traditionally had the highest fertility rate in the 27-member EU, it marked the biggest fall in births since the abrupt end of the baby boom in the 1970s. Births had also fallen 7% in the previous month compared with the same period a year earlier, leaving the total number of babies born in France last year, 735,000, at the lowest level since the end of the second world war. China’s population fell in 2020 for the first time since 1961. (A new book, incidentally, claims that the toxic, petroleum-based chemicals used in general capitalist production — the system’s dependence on labour exploitation makes it dependent on the labour-intensity and non-renewability of fossil fuel — has caused sperm counts to plummet.)
With enough state support, people with symptoms would be incentivised to self-isolate. Low sick pay has forced low-paid workers to continue working after being told to stay home (“£13 a day isn’t enough — isolating workers need proper sick pay”, TUC.co.uk, 27 August). As a result, black and minority ethnic people, overrepresented in the NHS and low-paid work, have been disproportionately affected both by infections (Manchester.ac.uk, 12 January) and the punitive measures enforcing lockdown, with a sharp rise in ‘stop and search’, which went up by 40% (“Coronavirus: Disproportionate number of BAME people fined”, BBC, 3 June). (They have also disproportionately lost more jobs, according to the TUC (FT, 20 January). In the US, mortgage failures are highest in predominantly black counties (Black Knight Inc); and black-owned small businesses have seen their business activity fall three times more than white counterparts (-41% vs -17%; -32% for Hispanic; -26% Asian) (National Bureau of Economic Research)). UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said one in three people with covid-19 are asymptomatic (the British Medical Journal (BMJ) says it’s 80%, 2 April) and labelled them a “silent danger”. A BMJ editorial (21 December) reported that a city-wide prevalence study of almost 10 million people in Wuhan found “no evidence” of asymptomatic transmission and said rapid testing of asymptomatic people was a waste of scarce resources. The Tory government, which blames the public for not following lockdown rules when the infection rate goes up, can now justify a harsher lockdown any time it feels any kind of political threat. As Linda Bauld, a professor at the University of Edinburgh, has said, Downing Street’s “blame game” consists of reproaching young people and threatening to impose larger fines. Prime Minister Boris Johnson complained about people “brazenly defying” restrictions when a very high 90% of the public have followed them (BMJ.com, 7 January). Yet he defended his unelected chief aide Dominic Cummings, who drove to a beauty spot on his wife’s birthday to “test his eyes” (ChronicleLive.co.uk, 25 May) and then 260 miles to his parents, supposedly to seek childcare when his wife had covid-19, on a day that happened to coincide with the death of his uncle, Lord Justice Laws. People reportedly started to follow guidelines less strictly as a result (Independent.co.uk, 3 June), which was perhaps the intended outcome. The government can use ‘new variants’ of covid from any part of the world at a moment’s notice to justify a new lockdown. There have been up to 20,000 mutations identified, potentially impossible for vaccines to keep up with and justifying, Hancock has hinted, new vaccines every year. “In reality, mutations rarely impact outbreaks dramatically” (Grubaugh et al, nature.com). According to early studies, the immune system evolves to fight coronavirus variants.
The Tory party is badly divided on the issue of lockdown, since some sections of capital are doing well out of it at the expense of others, resulting in inconsistent rules (“Independent shops hit out at high street chains trading during lockdown”, TheGuardian.com, 7 November). Despite having a pandemic down as one of the biggest threats to national security, in the past few years the government slashed spending on stockpiles of protective equipment for NHS staff (BBC, 28 April 2020).
Incidentally, the Soviet Union once defeated a smallpox epidemic without resorting to a nationwide lockdown. See “How the USSR defeated a smallpox epidemic in a matter of 19 days”.
 Civics Monitor said that 87% of the global population now lives in countries that are ‘closed’, ‘repressed’ or ‘obstructed’, up 4% on a year earlier. “The use of detention as the main tactic to restrict protests only shows the hypocrisy of governments using covid-19 as a pretence to crack down on protests, [as] the virus is more likely to spread in confined spaces like prisons.”
 Scepticism of vaccines is higher outside of north America and Europe, perhaps partly because of younger and therefore healthier populations, but mainly due to centuries of ongoing medical abuse at the hands of colonialism. A UK parliamentary committee found that “routine healthcare in some countries has ground to a halt, and people fear starvation and unemployment more than they do the pandemic. Covid-19, and its countermeasures, have increased rates of gender-based violence and child marriage.” (Labour adopted a policy of cancelling ‘third world’ debt ‘owed’ to Britain, later rejected by new leader, Keir Starmer.) These counter-measures have been largely influenced by Microsoft tycoon Bill Gates, the second richest man on Earth (now the US’s number one owner of farms). The Gates Foundation (worth $51bn) has shareholdings in several pharmaceutical giants. “The foundation appears to see the Global South as both a dumping ground for drugs deemed too unsafe for the developed world and a testing ground for drugs not yet determined to be safe enough for the developed world,” according to The Grayzone. Oxford’s Clinical Infectious Diseases Periodical has contended that “the only cause of polio is likely to be the vaccine”. Many others have come to similar conclusions about the vaccines Gates promotes. As the second largest contributor to the World Health Organisation (WHO), after the US, the WHO (which gets 80% of its funding privately) “doesn’t decide how these funds are spent — the foundation does”. The Gates Foundation has also donated millions of dollars to mainstream media outlets and Gates even starred in a docu-series on Netflix about how to stop a pandemic a few weeks before covid-19 hit the US. In 2017 Gates started buying up oxygen tank supplies (Borgen, 9 November) — and now there is a global shortage, since monopolies need artificial scarcity to sell products at profitable prices.
Such a shortage was being reported at the end of April 2021 as part of a concerted media campaign to sell vaccines to India. According to Jo Nash, writing for Left Lockdown Sceptics: “The media are presenting cases and deaths in whole numbers that sound horrendous until you convert them to percentages of India’s huge population of 1.4 billion people. The current daily death rate in India of 2,600 is equivalent to 126 deaths per day in the UK, way below our peak rate and closer to what we are experiencing now… more people die of diarrhoea every day in India and have done for years… India has the most toxic air in the world which often leads to the city having to close down due to the widespread effects on respiratory health … respiratory diseases, including COPD, TB, and respiratory tract infections like bronchitis leading to pneumonia, are always among the top ten killers in India… Finally, the Indian government’s focus on vaccine procurement risks diverting resources from tackling urgent public health issues including access to clean water, sanitation, clean air, and treatments for other communicable diseases. An article in the BMJ reported on disrupted access to TB vaccinations due to lockdowns,[i] with TB known to cause around 1.4 million deaths in the country annually… My contacts report that vaccine take-up among the working classes and minority groups has been low due to widespread mistrust of government-funded vaccination camps. In the context of successive governments’ neglect of other longstanding public health problems that disproportionately affect India’s working class, the rolling news coverage are perceived as attempts to coerce vaccination compliance... Vaccination is now being promoted over cheap early treatments that were previously widely available, and while vaccine take-up has increased, so have deaths concordantly, as displayed in the graphic from John Hopkins University …[ii]. While correlation does not equal causation, most people I have spoken to do not believe this is merely a coincidence [and this was during India’s summer, not flu season]. Given the widespread availability of the data online, and anecdotal reports of adverse reactions and deaths, suspicions of the vaccination campaign remain.” In The Australian, the former assistant secretary-general of the United Nations, Professor Ramesh Thakuras, pointed out: “As of now India’s covid mortality rate is 140 per million people. This compares to 401 for the world average, 1,762 for the US, and 1,869 for the UK. It puts India 119th in the world on this, the single most important statistic for comparison purposes.”
Returning to Gates: in January, Microsoft filed a patent to allow the company to ‘digitally revive’ deceased loved ones as online chatbots, using the individual’s “images, voice data, social media posts, and electronic messages” in a sick bid to profit off and prolong people’s grief and loneliness. The end of privacy is another byproduct of the economic crisis: personal data had to be commodified to create a new source of profit; but because data requires so little labour to produce, masses of it have to be made for it to be profitable, hence the complete invasion of privacy by ‘big tech’, which is effectively merging with ‘big pharma’ and private health care. Data rights organisations have warned that patients lack a clear understanding of how information about their health, employment, contact or location details may be used if it is collected by private entities during the Covid-19 vaccine drive. Some advocates have already expressed concerns that the information could be used for marketing, targeted advertising or de-identified and sold into the multibillion-dollar health data industry.
The Pentagon is now developing a “subdermal implant, now in late-stage testing… a tissue-like gel engineered to continuously test your blood [for covid — does this not indicate pessimism in the effectiveness of the vaccines?]… It’s a sensor… you put it underneath your skin and what that tells you is that there are chemical reactions going on inside the body and that signal means you are going to have symptoms tomorrow.” The implications of something like this for privacy and surveillance are plainly dire.
 The difficulty in trusting for-profit health care is further compounded by bogus talk of an ‘overpopulation’ crisis. The environmental/climate crisis is driven not by overpopulation or overconsumption but by capitalism’s dependence on fossil fuels and metal mining production, since its dependence on labour exploitation makes it dependent on the labour-intensity of extraction. Fossil fuel in particular, since it disappears into thin air and has to be dug up anew by exploited labour (whereas renewables potentially don’t until they’ve been worn out; although there is little profit in building things to last or waiting until things are worn out). Most of the things we need can be produced with mycelium, hemp and other fibrous plants, but these do not involve much exploitation of labour or labour intensity, so only attract very limited levels of investment. See “Socialism or extinction is a fact, not just a slogan”.
Talk of ‘overpopulation’ due to high unemployment played a role in ‘justifying’ WWI and The Holocaust. Unemployment is a feature of capitalism because capital becomes surplus (unprofitable to reinvest), thereby producing ‘surplus labour’ — workers who capital can no longer afford to employ. Capital does favour a loose (surplus) labour market, since the threat of unemployment, with an abundance of potential replacements, can be used to compel employed workers to accept lower wages and poorer conditions. However, the greater the surplus labour, the greater the expenditure on benefits that eats into tax bases and therefore profit margins. Such are the terrible contradictions of capitalism. Because socialism produces for utility instead of profit, it can sustain full employment.
One study estimates that Earth can cope with at least 92 billion humans. We are actually facing an underpopulation crisis, since the replacement rate is falling, meaning, for one thing, that there are not enough young people to support the ageing population.
An overaccumulation of capital also manifests in an overproduction of commodities that cannot be sold; that then have to either be destroyed or sold on the cheap. Again, the pharmaceutical industry is not exempt from this.
 Even the mix of pent-up demand and lifted lockdowns has the potential to bring about relatively high inflation. It usually takes an average 6% base interest rate cut to end a recession, but the US, UK and Europe have been stuck at zero for the first time ever for more or less the entirety of the past 12 years. Deep negative rates may be needed to stave off the worst crash ever for a while longer, but only so much cash can be converted into stocks and bonds and so this is a limited option. High inflation would usually be tackled by raising interest rates, but this would risk bursting the biggest financial bubble in history. In theory at least, the ruling class therefore has very little incentive to ever fully lift lockdown or restore the civil rights they have taken away.