2021: another year of pandemic and crisis?

By Vicente Gaynor

2020 is over, but the Covid pandemic and the economic and worldwide social crisis the have no end in sight.

According to official numbers, the worls has exceded 103 million infections and 2.25 million people have died from Covid. And although several versions of the long-awaited vaccine have been developed, the virus continues to spread.

December and January were the months with the most infections worldwide, with weekly averages exceeding 500,000 new cases per day and reaching daily records of over 800,000 new cases. Similarly, deaths from Covid continue to grow, with records that exceeded 16,000 daily deaths on January 22 and 28.

The new Great Depression

The deep economic crisis that had been brewing prior to the pandemic and that was dramatically precipitated by it, shows no signs of recovery either.

As the World Bank stated in its World Economic Outlook report: “COVID-19 has unleashed an unprecedented global crisis, a global health crisis that, in addition to generating an enormous human cost, is leading to the deepest global recession since the Second World War”.

As always, capitalism protects its fortunes and unloads the crisis on the backs of workers and the poor. Untold millions of were left without work or with their income drastically reduced. Surveys carried out by the World Bank indicate that more than 30% of companies reduced their workers´ hours; 35% cut wages and 20% laid off workers.

Of course, the hardest hit have been the most vulnerable, the millions of precarious workers of the informal economy, who in many cases were unable to work for months. The result has been an unprecedented rise of extreme poverty on a global scale. According to the World Bank’s annual summary, 2020 is the first year in a generation that marks an increase in the number of people living on less than $ 1.90 a day: “This year COVID-19 has pushed 88 million more people to extreme poverty, and this figure is just a starting point. In the worst case, it could reach 115 million”.

The vaccine illusion

The vaccine was supposed to save us and restore “normality”, but the new year did not come with news of mass and expeditious vaccinations, but of new outbreaks, new lockdowns and problems, inequalities and unforeseen delays in the production, distribution and application of the vaccines.

First, the richest countries have hoarded a significant portion of the vaccines. The United States and the United Kingdom have purchased enough doses for double or triple their population, and Canada leads the ranking with enough doses to vaccinate their population five times.

As Oxfam reports, “all doses of Moderna and 96 percent of Pfizer/BioNTech have been purchased by rich countries”, and although Oxford/AstraZenca has committed to allocate 64 percent of its doses to “developing” countries, most of its agreements are being signed with large countries like China and India. Except for some cases – like Argentina that was able to buy small quantities of Russian Sputnik V – the rest of the world is waiting to share the pool of vaccines of the WHO COVAX program, which would begin to operate this month.

Beyond the inequalities, total vaccine production would only reach a small proportion of the world’s population throughout 2021. According to the Wall Street Journal, only 10% of humanity would be vaccinated by the end of the year.

2020 II?

This destroys the hopes cultivated by governments and mass media for a speedy return to pre-pandemic “normality”. Everything indicates that the new year will resemble the year that passed in more aspects than expected: new Covid outbreaks, continuous and recurrent restrictions of economic and social activity…

A second year of pandemic and crisis could be avoided with policies opposed to those maintained by the capitalist governments of the world, advancing towards the nationalization of private health care and unified public health systems; the elimination of patents on vaccines and the public production and distribution of vaccines and medicines; extraordinary investments to provide the PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), infrastructure and salaries that health personnel require; and an economic policy to guarantee the lives of the world’s workers: heavy taxes on wealth; universal minimum wage; prohibition of dismissals, suspensions and salary reductions; provision of devises and internet service to students to guarantee access to on line education; and protocols for a safe return to face-to-face activities as vaccination progresses.

But the capitalist governments will prioritize the accumulation and concentration of wealth in the hands of the bourgeoisie, causing more poverty, misery and death for the working peoples.

But the peoples will not remain immobile. The rise of revolutions and rebellions that began in 2019 and was interrupted by the beginning of the pandemic, was already beginning to reactivate in the second half of 2020, and everything indicates that it will deepen this year.

The ISL we will be at the forefront of each mobilization of the workers and peoples, fighting for an alternative solution to this crisis, for the socialist transformation of society, and building revolutionary organizations to fight for that transformation.