The bourgeoisie and the sanitary genocide

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By PLINIO DE ARRUDA SAMPAIO JR.*

Sanitary neoliberalism is a political project of a bourgeoisie in a clear process of neocolonial reversal.

After a year of the coronavirus pandemic, health neoliberalism, based on “save yourself who can”, accumulates more than 270 official deaths in Brazil – the second highest number of victims of Covid-19 in the world. The actual number of lives lost is likely to be much higher – reaching at least 390.[I]

The dimension of the Brazilian tragedy is clear when compared with what happened in regions that adopted a strict policy of social isolation.

With the number of fatalities on the rise since the beginning of November, an average of daily deaths for six weeks over a thousand people and a transmission rate (Rt) persistently above one, Covid-19 is advancing uncontrolled in all regions of the country . The well has no bottom. Fiocruz warns of the imminence of a synchronized collapse of the public and private health system at the end of the summer, in a few weeks, when the circulation of the virus is usually enhanced.[iii]

The expectation that the development of vaccines against Covid-19 would solve the pandemic quickly was frustrated. In addition to the colossal incompetence of the intendant general who presides over the Ministry of Health as Bolsonaro's mandate, who was not even able to order the vaccines already provided for in his narrow immunization plan -which covers only 25% of the population -, the absence of sanitary sovereignty left the country at the mercy of the greed of the big pharmaceutical industries and the imperialist powers.

With very few exceptions, collective immunization against the coronavirus pandemic is moving slowly around the world.[iv] In order to maximize profits, vaccines are sold, drop by drop, at the price of gold. Its distribution respects the hierarchy of economic, political and military power that governs the world capitalist system. First, vaccines will be made available to the main hub – US, UK. Then, it will be up to immunize the secondary center – European Union. The periphery is towards the end of the row. The WHO's expectation is that the immunization of the world's population will drag on at least until 2023.[v]

If the development of new strains compromises the effectiveness of immunizers – and six of the most infectious mutations have already been identified –, fighting the pandemic will become a veritable task of Sisyphus. From the point of view of the pharmaceutical complex, which has no commitment to the health of the population, the extension of the disease is an excellent business opportunity. The longer the health emergency lasts, the greater the return on investment.

In the absence of a vaccine for all Brazilians, access to the vaccine will be rationed. The federal government's vaccination plan provides for immunization only of essential workers, elderly people and population with comorbidity issues - about 54 million people. The rest of the population – 160 million mortals – will be left to fend for themselves.

However, in the greatest shamelessness, the plutocracy quickly found a way to survive the health chaos that it itself foments. The law that provides for the purchase of a vaccine against the coronavirus by the private sector, secretly approved by the Federal Senate –PL 534/2021 –, with the enthusiastic support of the PT and other parties that make up the left-wing parliamentary opposition, radicalizes health neoliberalism.[vi] Made to order by pharmaceutical companies and big capital, the commodification of the vaccine weakens the SUS and further distances poor Brazilians from immunization against the coronavirus.[vii] Social segregation in access to the vaccine is institutionalized.

In the Bolsonaro government, the sanitary genocide is assumed without mediation. In some state and local governments, it is disguised as a semblance of public health policy. However, more than a sequence of errors, incompetence, irresponsibility and neglect of political agents, objective data of reality that undoubtedly exist in profusion, the sanitary genocide is a political project of a bourgeoisie in a frank process of neocolonial reversal, devoid of any moral connection with the workers and without any nationalist pretensions. The truth is that rulers of all colors let the circulation of the virus run wild.

As paradoxical as it may seem, the naturalization of the pandemic is functional for capital. It fulfills a dual purpose. On the one hand, it places the economic reason above the health reason. The short-term interests of capital prevail over everything else, subjecting work to the logic of exploitation under impossible conditions. On the other hand, it leaves the vanguard of the working class intimidated and fragmented, creating subjective conditions for capital to impose strategic defeats on it.

The specter of unemployment under particularly adverse conditions and the curfew generated by the need for social isolation compromise workers' ability to mobilize. The estrangement between workers who are able to protect themselves from the virus and those who do not – the vast majority – pits one segment of the class against the other. The opposition between the fear of the virus and the fear of hunger blocks the unity of work against capital.

Putting an end to the sanitary genocide is the main challenge of the moment. The practical measures necessary to stop the macabre march of events are known: lockdown national – the only means of interrupting the circulation of the virus; approval of dignified emergency aid so that all workers have effective conditions to adhere to social isolation; unilateral breach of vaccine patent and war effort for mass production so that immunizers are not lacking; and, finally, a vaccination campaign for rapid collective immunization. They are all perfectly enforceable. They are not carried out simply because, beyond the hypocritical rhetoric, it suits those in power to prolong the pandemic. The sanitary genocide will only cease when the workers enter the scene and forcibly impose their interests on the bourgeoisie.

* Plinio de Arruda Sampaio Jr. is a retired professor at the Institute of Economics at Unicamp and editor of Contrapoder website. Author, among other books, of Between nation and barbarism – dilemmas of dependent capitalism (Voices).

Notes

[I] https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/

[ii] https://portal.fiocruz.br/sites/portal.fiocruz.br/files/documentos/boletim_covid_2021-semanas_05-07.pdf

[iii] https://pages.eiu.com/rs/753-RIQ-438/images/report%20q1-global-forecast-2021.pdf?mkt_tok=NzUzLVJJUS00MzgAAAF7iK1LFumN8YmjEOeXJViahPpXwyR05CiNB_x4xtX5ckSl_Hl3mkOwEF_1AtD3i08eZiE5ZGzONf1cLlwBXuvXFwOyWlXtJQMMSwGhMAv7kvcHYQ

[iv] https://www.irishtimes.com/news/health/covid-19-warning-poorer-countries-will-not-be-vaccinated-until-2023-or-later-1.4480376

[v] https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2021/02/24/senado-aprova-que-estados-municipios-e-setor-privado-comprem-vacinas-contra-a-covid-19

[vi] https://paranaportal.uol.com.br/coronavirus/empresarios-fazem-encontro-virtual-com-o-governo-e-discutem-doacao-de-vacinas-ao-sus/Ver também: https://www12.senado.leg.br/noticias/materias/2021/02/22/pacheco-e-randolfe-articulam-para-que-brasil-tenha-vacinas-da-pfizer-e-da-janssen

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