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Cononavirus crisis 'giving rise' to racism, maskophobia against Chinese, migrants

By Bhabani Shankar Nayak*
The coronavirus pandemic is battering lives and wreaking havoc in world economy at the same time. This worldwide health and economic crisis reveal the inherent structural fault lines within neoliberal economic system dominated by global corporations. The fault lines are further exacerbated by the amoral market led states that protect interests of big businesses and pharmaceutical corporations.
The incoherent, incomprehensive and reluctant strategic response to this crisis by the developed counties like UK and USA reflect utter failure of the neoliberal ideology that promotes business of sickness by privatising public health.
The Thatcherite and Blairite neoliberal economic policies are destroying the National Health Service (NHS) in UK; one of the best healthcare systems in the world. The NHS is suffering from funds crunch, shortages of doctors and nurses due to under investment in health infrastructure for decades.
How do we expect the NHS to face complex challenges of coronavirus pandemic? The conservative government’s response to the crisis is pumping up money to sustain business and less focus on fighting the pandemic. The focus is more on the survival of the businesses than lives of ordinary people. The Tory government’s failure to face such a crisis is giving rise to racism and maskophobia against Chinese and other migrant population.
Donald Trump calls coronavirus as Chinese virus. Such statements fuel racism and anti-Chinese sentiments in the society. His government’s policy response abandons poor American’s ability to access healthcare during this pandemic. It puts nearly 58 per cent American lives in risk.
His government is an utter failure to deal with coronavirus in USA. The American imperialist trade embargo is directly responsible for the higher percentage of deaths in Iran due coronavirus pandemic. It is important to demand for the removal of American trade embargo on Iran on humanitarian grounds. But capitalist geopolitics is all about business.
The business of sickness is an integral part of neoliberal ideology and its economic system. This pandemic is an opportunity for profit hungry pharmaceutical corporations, private healthcare providers, insurance agencies and other businesses. The stockpiling of essential goods by people is selfish, nasty and brutish. But such Hobbesian solitary behaviours are reinforced by the neoliberal economic policies practiced over last four decades.
The individualistic response to crisis is a product of neoliberal capitalism that reshaped us from social beings to mere customers under a market led society and state. Therefore, it is important to break away from such a system that promotes death and destitution by using pandemic as an opportunity to make the empire of profit.
Courtney Davis and John Abraham in their book “Unhealthy Pharmaceutical Regulation: Innovation, Politics and Promissory Science” argue that drug regulatory agencies in US and EU are corrupted. These agencies and their policies promote commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industries and undermines the interests of the patients for last three decades. People in Italy, Spain, UK, France and USA are in the receiving end of such policies.
Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, creator of Interferon Alfa 2-B medicine, argues, health is not a commercial asset but a basic right
This pandemic calls for structural reforms both within economic and health systems across the world. Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkson in their book “The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger” argue that egalitarian societies are healthy societies. There is a strong link between inequality, poverty and poor health.
Poor people are more vulnerable to coronavirus. Therefore, all government policies need to steer towards poor and working-class people both in short run and long run. Emancipatory politics and policies are only alternatives that the state and governments need to emulate. Nationalisation of pharmaceutical industries, private hospitals and medical facilities, universal access to medicine are few primary steps in fighting coronavirus pandemic.
China was the epicentre of coronavirus pandemic. State capitalism or socialism with Chinese character with all its limitations has managed to contain and reduce the spread of coronavirus. China and Cuba provide medical aid to Italy now when European Union looked the other way. In spite of all liberal criticisms, Cuba has managed to develop infrastructure to produce highest number of doctors, nurses and medical professionals in the world.
Cuba has established the BioCubaFarma group which is rolling out Interferon Alpha 2B drug that can be used to treat coronavirus pandemic. Unlike developed capitalist countries, Cuba shares the technology with many countries like Finland, China and USA. Cuban doctor Luis Herrera, the creator of the Interferon Alfa 2-B medication, argues that “health is not a commercial asset but a basic right". Cuban provides medical aid and many doctors and health professionals are working in many African and Latin American countries.
This crisis offers the limitless possibilities of socialist alternative which means borderless solidarity, sharing economy and technology for people and caring for healthy environment. It is our choice for a healthy and harmonious economy for the present and future. Let’s fight for socialism together or perish together under pandemic incubator called capitalism.
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*With the Coventry University, UK

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