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COVID-19 Pandemic: Socialist and Capitalist Responses

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There are fundamental differences between the nature of leftist/communist-ruled states and rightist/capitalist-ruled states, i.e. ownership of productive means, distribution of resources, and economic and planning system. Due to a centralized planning system, socialist states responded swiftly, mobilized huge masses during the COVID-19 pandemic whereas capitalist states, due to liberalized policies, were weak, and could not respond effectively for the benefit of poor and working-class people. Basic needs such as food, education, health, and sanitation are guaranteed by the state in socialist countries whereas due to privatization, people in capitalist countries have to depend on private hospitals and insurance companies for health treatment. For the capitalist states, profit, business, and market are of greater priority than social security and people’s welfare, thus the life of the working class became more miserable during the pandemic. In absence of regulatory mechanisms, private companies took advantage of the pandemic situation to overprice the medical supplies to make a profit. Moreover, the supply chain in capitalist states was severely affected due to which people couldn’t get their necessities. Whereas in socialist states, farmers got subsidies, lower-class got social securities, and workers got welfare funds. Even during the lockdown, workers did not lose jobs, peasants and farmers were able to sell their products and people did not suffer from hunger and poverty. Socialist states were not only ensuring the good health and lives of their people but countries such as China, Cuba, and Vietnam were sending the white coat army of frontline doctors and medical supplies in several countries. Their attempt for global co-operation, broader solidarity, and internationalism, to fight with the pandemic was commendable. Whereas, the US withdrew from the WHO, continued sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, and tried to isolate china during the initial outbreak.

1. World conjuncture and COVID-19 pandemic

The discourses of the time are the reflection of capitalism, a system that undermines nature, humanity, and peace in its motives of profit. The greatest health crisis humanity is facing in the 21st century has completely exposed the ugly faces of imperialism, the failure of the neoliberal world trade regime, and the adversity of industrial livestock farming (Pokharel and Kim, 2020). Therefore, we live in a crucial juncture of history. The crisis in neoliberal capitalism and the rise of extreme nationalist, fundamentalist, and neofascist regimes on one side. And on the other facet of the same global system, the people’s struggles for the rights and dignified life are increasing with the vision of socialist agendas on public health care, public educations, social security, localized production, and distribution. Along with this, again in the history of the socialist movement, people’s solidarity and internationalism for a better world are strengthened through different global and regional platforms such as the International Meeting of the Communist and Workers Parties (IMCWP), International People’s Assembly (IPA), Progressive International (PI), La Via Campesina at the global level and Madan Bhandari School of Asia, 21st-century Marxist research association of South Asia, South Asian Peasants’ Coalition (SAPC) at South Asia Level (Ibid). It is in this context, the COVID-19 responses of socialist states such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba have been praised all around while capitalist states are heavily criticized for their inefficacy to deal with the health crisis.

1.1 Imperialist hegemony and hybrid wars

We live amidst the pandemic. The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) called the world leaders not to politicize the coronavirus and pandemic (PTI, 2020). He also made it clear that we can’t defeat pandemic with a divided world. But imperialist and capitalist centers, for whom profit and hegemony are of greater priority than people’s lives, are a hurdle to the global solidarity of humanity. As Harari (2020) stated that in the battle against coronavirus, humanity lacks leadership, and a divided world can’t defeat pandemic. Socialist China was trying to build internationalism while there was an effort to isolate China and create myths with conspiracy theories against China. He also worried that extreme nationalists (“America first” policy) such as Donald Trump are a hurdle to global co-operation, collaboration, and trust. False statements such as the Chinese virus or the laboratory-made virus (Miller, 2020) were the greatest constraints of solidarity and unified action at the beginning of the outbreak. The decision to retreat from WHO during the pandemic exposed the ugly face of imperialism. As if they knew that the virus was conveyed to Wuhan by the US army, they declared that the virus can’t fly to their country (Global Times, 2020) and it can only harm Chinese nationals. Instead of co-operation, solidarity, and support, they celebrated the outbreak in China. The present global crisis due to pandemic is the result of their negligence, lack of solidarity, and preparedness during its initial stage. The brutal faces of fascism, which have always been busy in divide and rule, war, oppression, violence, and inequality for their profit and business, continue during the pandemic. They are trying to misuse the crisis, politicize the situation, and continue their hegemony, monopoly, and imperialist rule. After the failure of capitalist centers or so-called first world dealing with a pandemic, there will likely be a shift of agendas. For that reason, there are attempts to divert people’s attention. War is their ultimate weapon. But before the armed war, they are fighting hybrid wars. Intensifying sanctions in Iran and Venezuela, more annexation and occupation in Palestine, trade war and cold war with China, and pushing millennium challenge corporations (MCC) for military alliance in Sri Lanka and Nepal are new forms of imperialist hybrid war.

1.2 Counterproductive hostility of Capitalism: Lessons Learned

As Marx pointed out in The Communist Manifesto (1848), capitalism breeds its own seeds of destruction. Pandemic has trembled the political economy of the capitalist world. Whether it again bring forward false solutions and hostile policies to continue deceiving the people or it crumbles, is yet to be seen; but there are three truths demonstrated. These truths seem unacceptable to the global regime (Pokharel, 2020a). First, countries like China, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, ruled by communists and socialists with better public health services, centralized planning, people-centered and public policies are effectively dealing with the pandemic. Second, China has become a strong economic power and Xi Jinping’s thought on socialism with Chinese characteristics for a new era of the Chinese Communist Party is not only successful within the country but also leading the global fight of humanity against SARS-CoV-2. The third manifestation is that the neoliberal corporate trade regime has completely paralyzed during the pandemic and failed to respond to the health crisis even in core capitalist countries. These have revived the socialist agendas on the localization of economy and collective ownership on productivity, which may lead to breaking the world order i.e. rule of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. A multipolar world is expected after the collapse of the single world economy. The cold war with China, first the trade war and now during the pandemic, is not different from the historical imperialist trend. Attacks by mass media, propaganda, and many other means were all in vain. The false accusations and attacks against China, especially highlighting Chinese investment in Africa and Belt and Road Initiatives (BRI) of China were also unsuccessful. Now, using the COVID-19 outbreak, they tried to weaken China, which also proved counterproductive (Pokharel, 2020b).

1.3 Let’s prepare for the worst

Capitalists do not have many choices left in the post-COVID-19 context. Even the capitalist forum, the world economic forum, has urged the need of resetting the economic and social policies. There is already the greatest economic impact of a pandemic since the great depression of the 1930s. One in every three people is unemployed in the world today (World Bank, 2020). FAO has already declared the situation of food turmoil and warning of the food crisis, and the number of people living in hunger is increasing each minute (FAO, 2020). World Bank has reported that one of the worst affected sectors due to the pandemic is the remittance sector and most affected people are migrant workers. The International Committee of the Red Cross has warned that cases of violence, depression, suicide, and stigmatization will exceed the number of deaths due to pandemic (ICRC, 2020). The working class is at the center of all those impacts. If we consider the general trends of the capitalist response to the post-pandemic situation, there is less hope and more antagonism. The neo-fascist regime has used pandemic to further squeeze the rights of people in the name of imposing health measures, prohibitory order, or lockdown. Corruption, autocracy, and impunity have increased. If we project the general trend of how capitalism in crisis will revive its economy and regain power in the post-pandemic context, it’s disastrous. More aggression, new forms of hegemony and exploitation, more hostility to nature, greater loot, and devastation of resources are the only tools left to capitalism. Extreme nationalism, identity politics, castism, sexism, racism, and fundamentalism may be at a greater extent to divide the people and suppress the minorities and marginalized groups.

1.4 COVID-19 pandemic and the Impacts

The coronavirus, COVID-19 has become one of the greatest challenges for humanity today. The impacts are rampant. The death toll is about 1.7 million and cases of infection are nearly 81 million. USA, Brazil, and India have the highest number of deaths of 341332; 191,207 and 148,140 out of the total infections of 19,589,952, 7,486,094, and 10,222,656, respectively (Worldometers, 2020). It has spread all over the world. The impacts of the pandemic are rampant in the economy, society, and politics. The working class is hard hit by the pandemic. But surprisingly, China is not among the top 40 countries in terms of infections and death. Similarly, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, etc. are at the bottom of the affected countries. It has been realized that the responses from the government and partners are key to recover from this crisis. United Nations also highlights that without the commitment of leadership, quick and procedural response, and solidarity and coordination, it is not possible to get victory over the virus. Here we will briefly see the response of a few countries on prevention, control, and treatment of COVID-19.

 1.5 Capitalism is in crisis. During the crisis, every country becomes socialist

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels were the pioneers to envision the emancipation of humanity to overthrow capitalism and to scientifically validate the road to socialism. Yes, as Lenin said, without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement. The theory of Marx and Engels became the guiding principles of revolutions around the world from Lenin to Mao, Fidel to Hugo Chavez. China in Xi Jinping’s leadership is building socialism with the innovative application of the science of Marxism to liberate its people in the 21st century. In socialist countries, as stated by Karl Marx, the means of production are in the hands of people, therefore, the people live with great dignity, justice, and social security. Whenever there is a crisis, the global system and the nations have the only option to move to socialist reforms. Yes, during a crisis, every country becomes socialist. Whether it is a great depression or the financial crisis of 2008/2009, capitalism survived from the remedy of socialist programs and policies. This very truth of the supremacy of socialism against capitalism is historically revealed and scientifically established. China is a lively example of our time.

2. The Socialist and Capitalist response to COVID-19: Why Socialists were successful?

The Communist Manifesto conceptualized scientific socialism as the society where people live with dignity, prosperity, equity, justice, collectivism, and humanity. As long as there is oppression, exploitation, and inequality, the struggle of people for freedom, justice, and equality continues. As long as the class exists in society, the class struggle for socialism continues. The world has experienced time and again the importance of scientific socialism for the emancipation of humanity, but now the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us a solid lesson that only a socialist state puts the lives of people first and they are successfully and efficiently dealing with a health crisis. Marxism as a scientific theory believes in its innovative application according to the concrete analysis of concrete situation towards achieving scientific socialism. And China, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela are doing this. The world is amazed by the work of China which was the center of the pandemic for the initial two months when there was very little known about the virus. Now, the world is praising the humanitarian aid work of China which extended its help to other countries after successfully dealing with the virus within the country. Therefore, the world needs to know the fundamental differences in the leadership, approaches, and measures socialist states took to respond to COVID-19 and achieve success. In this work, we aim to (1) investigate the fundamental differences between socialist and capitalist states; and (2) analyze the response of socialist and capitalist states during the Covid-19 outbreak and the outcomes achieved.

2.1 Ideological strength, committed leadership, and cadre mobilization

The states which were efficient in COVID-19 management are not only ruled by committed leadership, their most important feature is the ideological strength. The socialist states are ruled by cadre-based parties with a clear ideological orientation of building socialism. The cadres and party take full responsibilities in those countries in all crises. If we take the example of China, we know how in the leadership of Xi Jinping, CPC mobilized all party organizations at different levels in prevention and control. We know the timely construction of Huoshenshan Hospital (1000 bed hospital built in over a week), Leishenshan Hospital, and mobile cabin hospitals. This is the symbol of the Chinese spirit which is like a miracle for the world. Similarly, the strength of the socialist states of Cuba and Vietnam has been noticed during the pandemic. In all works from the rescue to the deployment of goods and materials, all decisions, arrangements, and prevention and control measures were collectively done with due commitments. The capitalist states lack all three, the ideological grounds, the commitment of leadership, and mass mobilization.  Only the communist and left parties are cadre-based parties that can mobilize cadres. Countries like the USA ruled by businesspeople can only mobilize either the employee or the public officials. Cuba mobilized around 8 million members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution in the country out of a total population of 11 million. 95,000 doctors and 80 thousand nurses were mobilized in Cuba. The coordinated action of the party, public officials, and people in China is the measuring rod of its success. Similarly, Vietnam also proved capable of dealing with COVID-19; it was also the first country to efficiently deal with SARS in 2003.

2.2. Putting people’s lives first not the business

Socialism is all about the welfare of the people. While Vietnam became an example to have the least infections and causalities due to its commitment, initial response, and priority to people’s health over business and economy. US, UK, Brazil, and many other countries that put business and economy first against the lives of people were reluctant to put lockdown (Raphael, 2020). A study estimated that there might have been 36,000 fewer coronavirus-related deaths had the US entered lockdown a week earlier in March. The Columbia University research also estimated that around 83% of deaths could have been avoided if measures were taken two weeks earlier (BBC, 2020). Similar is the case of other countries like Brazil, the UK, and Sweden. Due to its reluctance to go for lockdown in the initial months, Sweden was among the top 10 countries with the highest death rates per 100K people (Goodman, 2020). The carelessness and negligence had no limit, Trump and Bolsenaro were even reluctant to wear the masks. As Che said, the life of a single human being is worth millions of time more than all the property of the richest man on earth. Socialism puts people’s lives first (Guevara, 2003). Chinese President Xi Jinping thought and socialist china is a lively example of our time. The ideas of Lenin and Che, putting first the lives of people, are taken forward by states such as China, Vietnam, and Cuba. That is the basis of their success.

2.3. Public health care system, people’s welfare, social securities against the commodification of everything

The public health care system and education, centralized planning system, efficient state system, localized policies, and provisions for the basic needs of people are the features of socialist states. Vietnam is the least affected country in the world due to its efficient health care system. Health care is free in Cuba. But in capitalist states, all the basic services including health care are privatized. It’s out of access to lower class peasants and workers. There is no regulatory mechanism for market and price which also leave spaces for monopoly, artificial shortage, black marketing, and limited access to health facilities, medicines, safety, and preventive measure. In countries ruled by communists, it is regulated by states. In capitalist states, people may have to suffer due to a lack of basic needs whereas, in socialist states, basin needs are free or accessible and affordable. That was revealed during the pandemic.

2.4. Taking systematic approaches

The steps taken by socialist states in response to COVID-19 were far more planned, seriously taken, and implemented than in capitalist states. Starting from lockdown to quarantine, isolation, and treatment, there was proper planning and effective implementation in socialist states. For example, China’s strategy has been remarkably effective in containing the rapid spread of COVID-19 and protecting hundreds of thousands of people (Huang, 2020). It is due to the systematic approaches of China (Wang et al. 2020). Zhao et al. (2020) summarize the approaches in terms of coordination, classification, and collaboration. Coordination is about leadership, organization, medical team, resources, and technologies. Classification involves the categorization of areas and cities in terms of risks into a different level. And the collaboration involves the joint effort of government, party, public, and organizations to fight against the pandemic. So, in all areas related to the pandemic, there were systematic approaches in socialist states. An immediate response was one of the most important factors in dealing with the pandemic. The delay in response cost more lives. Countries that have taken radical action without delay like Vietnam have been able to contain the epidemic. This was the opposite in the case of the USA, Brazil, and other states. The second important factor was the health facilities and services. The public health care system and intensive care capacity of a country like Vietnam made it easy to deal with the crisis. In socialist states, governments provided the tests, and Vietnam and Cuba tested millions of population in the initial months. But in capitalist states the test and contact tracing was slow. Due to enough public spaces, public hospitals, health centers, public schools, training centers, and hostels, there were adequate and safe places for quarantine and isolation in those socialist countries whereas this was one of the great challenges in countries where health and education were privatized. Even the people with COVID-19 couldn’t be admitted to hospitals, put on isolations, and provided care in countries like the USA. The supply of medical items and relief materials was a big challenge in capitalist countries. But in socialist countries, due to strong state mechanisms, mass mobilization, the public distribution system, and coordinated work, there was not much difficulty to provide medical items to the people. Therefore, soap, hand wash, sanitizer, and masks were distributed to every poor household, and a supply of basic needs and food was also provided during the crisis period. There was no monopoly and black marketing of testing kits, masks, respirators, PPE, and medicines. Along with all the steps taken, awareness campaigns and the use of mass media is also important in an era of mass media and communication.  But what we don’t need during a crisis is a flood of information creating confusion. Proper awareness to the people was needed during this pandemic. Mass campaigns were seen in socialist states as the Cuban medical team provided door to door services to millions of people. There was also a flood of misinformation coming from the mass media and social media. It was important to take strong action against false and unscientific rumors such as cow urine and hand-clapping can cure Covid19. There was very effective communication, awareness, and discipline in this respect in Vietnam, Cuba, and China.

3. Promoting the building of a community with a shared future for mankind

Collectivism, internationalism, cooperation, and unified actions were fundamental to deal with the pandemic. While some states were misusing the crisis to attack weaker states, countries like China and Cuba were using it to build a borderless world.  As La Via Campesina (2020) stated, “COVID-19 crisis is a stark wake-up call for the world and its people to rethink and reimagine the way we live our lives”. It showed the ruptures in the system we live in and why we need to build socialism. Yes, Cuba and China were taking this message along with the aid of information, medical items, and frontline doctors. History will remember forever what the comrades in China and Cuba did to fight the pandemic in many countries. The attempt of China to take leadership in this fight will be recorded in history. As Harari (2020) stated China can teach countries all over the world many important lessons about coronavirus, but this was challenged by ideas such as “America first”. Despite all the challenges, isolation, criticism, and threats, the socialist states tried to develop international and regional solidarity in terms of information sharing, medical supplies, and many more. Vietnam sent 45,000 PPE to the USA, Cuba sent more than 3000 medical staff to different countries and China provided all needed help to core capitalist countries, shows international solidarity and humanitarian aid. The future generation will question the fascist regime which tightened the sanctions in Iran when people were dying. Humanity will question why annexation and occupation in Palestine and sanctions on Venezuela continued. Why the huge debt pressure on poor countries was misused to dominate them with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Indo Pacific Strategy, and other imperialist tools. Capitalism exploits labor but during difficult times, the migrant workers and refugees who built their infrastructure and economy were forgotten. But the greatest strength of socialist states was Solidarity in times of pandemic.

3.1 The greatest strength of China

 China, moving forward with Xi Jinping Thought, has shown again that only a socialist state can deal with pandemics efficiently. As the General Secretary of CPC stated, the epic fight against COVID-19 once again proved the strong leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and the advantages of socialism with Chinese characteristics to withstand risk and challenges and enhance governance efficiency (CGTN, 2020). The fight against COVID-19 once again proved that the core value of China’s socialist system is to put the peoples’ lives first. After the fall of the Soviet Union, there was a gap in global solidarity for humanity. But now when China is not only challenging global imperialism, we must say new history has begun.  China, which continues to advance in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, especially since the 18th CPC congress, under the strong leadership of Comrade Xi Jinping at its core, has achieved a breakthrough in the integration of socialist theory and national conditions. Chinese communists’ responsibility of “working for the common good” has vigorously promoted innovations in building a community with a shared future for mankind.

3.2 Then what about other world leaders?

While investigating the impacts of COVID-19 in various countries, it is well noticed that the worse the regime, the higher the impacts. While the leadership of Xi Jinping has been praised all around, leaders such as Trump, Bolsenaro, and Modi, who not only created the hurdle to global solidarity but also publicly opposes the initial prevention and control, have been in controversy. This shows, the pandemic is part and parcel of global capitalism (Bush, 2020) and should have been controlled in its initial phases if there were initial responses and united global efforts especially from those leaders. The obvious solution to a global pandemic is global solidarity, to open borders to people and to share resources. This shows the global health crisis and its repercussions are only one facet of capitalist exploitation and imperialist domination. Therefore, the fight against coronavirus is a fight against imperialism (Zigmund, 2020). Imperialism does not end even in a pandemic, which has been revealed from the continued sanctions in Venezuela and Cuba, Iran, and Palestine. And in South Asia, the fundamentalist regime organized a pilgrimage of thousands of devotees to the Amarnath cave, dedicated to the god Shiva, observing symbolic sanitary measures. This shows the orthodoxy and negligence.

Conclusion

Comparing the nature of states ruled by communist and leftist against the states ruled by capitalist and rightist, some fundamental differences can be observed. In socialist states, due to public ownership on the productive means, there is equality and fair distribution of resources while in capitalist states, the resources are privately owned and inequality is high. This is one of the reasons for the suffering of the working class due to COVID-19 in capitalist states. State-led economy and centralized planning system are the core of socialist states. Due to this, the response of socialist states was quick, and greater masses were mobilized in a coordinated way. In capitalist states, the market is dominant and development is led by liberalized policies, and the state is so weak that coordinated and efficient action cannot be expected. The state ensures the provision of basic needs in socialist states whereas all the basic needs of education, health, food, sanitation, are privatized in capitalism. Therefore, in core capitalist countries people can’t afford the health facilities and mostly rely on insurance which was also challenged during the pandemic. Due to the lack of social security and people’s welfare, the life of the working class is miserable in capitalist states as profit, business and market are of greater priority than human lives. Therefore, there was no lockdown in the initial period of the outbreak to protect their economy. Moreover, the private sectors, in absence of regulatory mechanisms, overpriced the medical items to make a profit. There was no supply chain of state in capitalist states due to which people couldn’t get their necessities. Farmers get subsidies, lower-class get social securities and workers get welfare in socialist states but it is not the case in capitalist states. Based on these highlighted differences, we can analyze how socialist states such as China responded efficiently while countries like the USA, UK, Brazil, etc. suffered most.

Even during the lockdown, containment, and prohibitory order, workers didn’t lose jobs, peasants and farmers were able to sell their products and people didn’t suffer from hunger and poverty in socialist states. Socialist states were not only ensuring the good health and lives of people within the country but China and Cuba were sending the militant of frontline doctors in other countries. China became a leader in the fight against the pandemic, sharing knowledge and experiences as well as sending masks and other medical items. We must say, it was not only barbaric and inhuman but was a foolish act by the US government to celebrate the outbreak of Coronavirus in Wuhan and neglect its spread around the world. It was their negligence that deteriorated the situation, therefore, they are responsible for the present crisis. They continued their business during the crisis, putting the lives of people at risk. They didn’t put lockdown early, didn’t provided enough tests and there was a lack of solidarity at all. People in core capitalist countries have realized that the regime went against them during the crisis and their rights were declined. But these are lessons. The lesson of the failure of neoliberal capitalism and world trade regime, incapability of leadership of the core capitalist countries, their ugly faces of imperialism, and their profit motives even at the cost of peoples lives. The ugly faces were revealed when they decided to withdraw from the WHO, continue sanctions on Cuba, Iran, and Venezuela, and isolated china during the initial outbreak. Socialist states including China were successful because the government took quick, efficient, and appropriate measures. There were bases of socialism with collectivism and the public health care system. Their attempt for global co-operation, broader solidarity, and internationalism, to fight with this pandemic was praiseworthy. China has set a new standard for outbreak response. In all respects of the initial response to coordinated actions, they were far better. There were also sharp differences in approaches. Socialist approaches of internationalism and capitalist approaches of isolation, socialists aiding other nations while the US putting sanctions, Vietnam and China donating medical items and core capitalist monopolizing, public and private tells the story of socialist response against capitalist response. Therefore, this is an important time for solidarity, cooperation, and internationalism. A lesson to transform our food, health, and economic systems. We have to reject neoliberalism. It is time to be more organized and active. We cannot be silent when humanity is crushed by a capitalist crisis and pandemic.

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