The covid-19 crisis does not come from outside of humanity, of its social organization, of its environment. It comes from capitalism itself, because it is a mode of production that encompasses all aspects of human life and the reproduction of it, on a planetary scale now.
The contradiction between town and country, which widens with the deepening of the capitalist mode of production, leads to situations where qualitative breaks are made in the natural domain, as here with the covid-19, mutation of a virus, not “bursting” of virus from previously isolated animals.
In the same way, the health crisis in the strict sense does not take place alongside the capitalist mode of production. It is one aspect of it. Indeed, the health crisis depends on the state, which itself is the condensation of the balance of forces between the classes within a given society. And this state is more or less bankrupt, depending on the extent of the crisis in the capitalist mode of production in the country concerned.
This is why we want to underline here the bankruptcy of the Belgian and French states inf facing the crisis, a failure parallel to that of the American state, as opposed to the management of the German, Chinese, South Korean states. Not that these states are of a different nature, because this is not the case: the point here is to underline the scale of the general crisis in Belgium and in France, as well as to see clearly that the crisis obeys worldwide to uneven development.
In relation to a health crisis, there are three fundamental aspects: that of the material means of the hospital sector, that of anticipating the crisis by means of response plans, that of the organization of the sectors making the decisions.
We absolutely do not want to fall into the trap of a criticism that boils down to the question of organization, even if it is important. It would be a mechanical-formal approach that would not go to the heart of the matter. By this we do not mean to say that socialist organization would not be superior to capitalist organization – we mean to say that organization stems from the content of political orientations, from ideological choices.
To focus on the question of organization is to look at the form of the response to the health crisis and not its content. The same goes for anticipation, although this is obviously essential too. That capitalism is not far-sighted is a thing to criticize, but it would be wrong to regard this as the main aspect.
The main aspect of a health crisis is always above all that of the means – if by means are meant not only the material capacities of health structures, but also human beings and their choices, their decisions, their orientations.
This is why the health crisis is, by definition, political. Beyond knowing how things are done, or even planned, it is necessary to determine precisely what is done.
Since the bourgeoisie is the dominant class in Belgian and French capitalism, it rules the state, not mechanically, but as it is a condensation of the class struggle. We are terribly shocked to see how there have been, on different sides in the movement of opposition to capitalism, anarchist reactions making the State a simple monster which would be mechanically at the service of a manipulative bourgeoisie.
Capitalism is not a tyranny, unless it finds itself in the case of fascism in an ultra-aggressive and ultra-monopoly situation. The proof that this is by no means the case is that the states were obliged in each country to move in the protection of health in general, and not only for the bourgeoisie. It was a real attempt to protect the population, not a masked operation of of masses repression.
This protection of the masses, and this is precisely the questionable aspect, was not up to par in Belgium and France, when it was much more so in an imperialist country like Germany. These three countries nevertheless experience relatively similar social and political situations, at least in their general features. It is there that one reads a state crisis and, in its core, a crisis of the capitalist mode of production in its national aspect, here Belgian on one side, French on the other.
The health crisis in Belgium and in France is a state crisis in Belgium and in France, and expresses, reinforces the crisis of the capitalist mode of production in Belgium and in France.
This is, in our view, the real revolutionary analysis which is necessary.
On March 7, 2020, the conservative-populist media BFMTV could still give one of its articles the title “Emmanuel and Brigitte Macron at the theater to encourage the French to go out despite the coronavirus”. The French State has actually literally fallen over in its response to the health crisis and it is all the more striking that France is a very powerful country in the field of health, whether with infrastructure or with research, pharmaceutical monopolies or even open and effective state support.
It has become clear that the capitalist mode of production in France has so pressurized and fragmented this area of health that it has been unable to react in a determined and structured manner to the challenge of the health crisis. Despite the number of scholars, researchers, engineers, collective entities, both academic and directly capitalist, no warning has been produced. We must use the term product because it is a product of the production forces.
One of the most terrible examples is that of Agnes Buzyn, doctor, teacher and researcher in medicine, Minister of Solidarity and Health since May 2017. She resigned from her position in order to be appointed candidate on February 16, 2020 at the mayor of Paris, the initial candidate of the presidential party having resigned following an equally revealing scandal, since it involves the sending of videos of a sexual nature in an extra-marital relationship.
Agnes Buzyn had previously explained on January 24, 2020 that “the risk of importing [covid-19] from Wuhan is practically zero”, that “the risk of spread is very low” – all to explain after her electoral defeat that the elections had been a “masquerade” and that she has allegedly warned the government about the health crisis, the risk of a “tsunami” epidemic from January 11, 2020.
This is obviously rambling and, therefore, fundamentally untrue. This reflects a whole inconsistent and parasitic state of mind predominant at the head of the health field, having fully integrated its integration into the capitalist mode of production and incapable of any step back from its own activities.
It is in fact a failure in the field of health, but therefore a failure of the State since it is up to the State that the responsibility for it falls.
The Belgian state also found itself in an overhang with the needs necessary to deal with the health crisis. This was inevitable at the structural level, since there are eight ministers in Belgium in the health field, overlapping at federal, regional and community levels. University hospitals have a separation between French and Dutch speakers, as well as between those belonging to the State and those belonging to the Catholic Church.
It is therefore not surprising that Sciensano, the Scientific Institute of Public Health, therefore had no plan to respond to a possible pandemic. The difference with the French situation is that the French state, centralized and having immense and coordinated means in health, could have had such a plan, while on the Belgian side, the dispersion prevented it by definition.
This results in denial and Steven Van Gucht, president of the Scientific Committee and head of the Sciensano Viral Diseases service, said in the Chamber on March 3, 2020: “We are well prepared,” In the worst case scenario, and all things considered, ( …) in nine weeks (…) we are in the same order of magnitude as a big flu epidemic” (in five weeks the figures were already double this forecast).
This is the background leading Minister of Public Health Maggie De Block to denounce the alerts of doctors on February 28, 2020, defining them as “dramaqueens (tragedians)” which have to stop “whining”. In the House, she explained on March 5 that “this is a new type of flu, but mild (“milde griep”), which will continue on our planet before becoming a seasonal flu.” On March 9, she announced her first death from coronavirus, only to deny it a few minutes later.
And it is of course the background of the great disturbance on March 23 as for the shares in the distribution of masks for Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels… while it was learned on the same day that several million FFP2 protective masks had been destroyed in 2017 as considered obsolete, and five days later, that an order for three million of these masks had been canceled for reasons of bureaucracy.
The health crisis reflects in substance the society / state contradiction, due to the nature of the present state as a condensation of the class struggle with the domination of the bourgeoisie in both Belgium and France.
We want to emphasize the importance of considering this contradiction. There was indeed a primary anti-state reaction from the ultra-left, from both anarchists and “Marxist-Leninists”, even people claiming to be Maoist. Not mastering the teachings of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, they did not understand the nature of the state which has a double character: as an organ of repression and as a social body.
They believed that containment was a low-cost control operation, even a conspiracy. They considered that all the positions of the Belgian state and the French state were by definition reactionary, which is anti-dialectical. This is the expression of a petty bourgeois fear of the state monster.
In reality, the state manages the health system both to maintain the functioning of the capitalist mode of production by treating people so that they work, and because it only has legitimacy as a vehicle for some historic progress. The workers of a capitalist country of the 21st century are acutely aware of the achievements in the field of medicine and no bourgeois regime could hold if it was not up to this task, which means that imperialism American faced a major political challenge that shook it in its foundations.
Many people around the world have seen the contradiction between the means of medicine and the inability to have a unified global mobilization taking full advantage of science. This raises the question of the general orientation of society, and therefore of the state, of humanity and therefore of a world state. Current states are unable to provide what is a universal health requirement – a need for communism.
It should be emphasized that the crisis in the Belgian and French states is of a new type, since no state has ever had to deal with a phenomenon like covid-19. It is a new phenomenon responding to new conditions: those resulting from an explosive contradiction between humanity and wilderness.
It is a contradiction that takes place within the capitalist mode of production, the state itself being a contradiction within the capitalist mode of production by its social role on the one hand, anti-social of the other. It is therefore entirely false to say, as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Canada does, that “there is nothing fundamentally new and surprising in what the pandemic tells us about capitalism” (COVID-19: International competition at the heart of the current crisis).
We recognize here that this organization, which claims to be Maoist, rejects dialectical materialism, Stalin, the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. On the contrary, everything is fundamentally new. This is a global crisis, with global consequences, appearing clearly for the masses of the world. This is a new phenomenon historically, heralding the period of great upheaval on a global scale.
It is precisely this aspect that makes states waver.
The health crisis was born as the result of an activity of planetary dimension and consequently it raises a question whose answer can be itself only an activity of planetary dimension.
States cannot, by definition, be able to respond adequately to the health crisis, by their very definition. Even if we admit that China has responded effectively on its territory – which remains to be proven – we can see that this country was unable to prevent the spread of covid-19. Humanity appears here as part of a single global process and no country is independent of this planetary chain.
There is an explosive contradiction here, because the states have only been able to respond to the crisis by closing the borders, which is the opposite of their approach so far, approach which opens them to allow strengthening in all areas of the capitalist mode of production.
The covid-19, the result of the capitalist mode of production reigning in a planetary manner in a unified manner, provokes a backward movement of it. And national divisions within the capitalist mode of production, within the framework of the tendency to war, push each country to return to efficiency as quickly as possible, to turn in on itself, reinforcing the crisis.
We do not pretend here to list all the contradictions that have emerged or have been reinforced with the covid-19 crisis. We say however: understanding the planetary nature of this crisis is the key to having a revolutionary understanding of it.
There will be no “next day” or a return to normality. We are dealing here with a dialectical leap in the crisis – a leap which corresponds to the need for communism on a world scale.
Marxist Leninist Maoist Center of Belgium
Communist Party of France (Marxist-Leninist-Maoist)