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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 17 New Delhi, April 11, 2020

Lockdown in the Age of the Invisible Enemy

Saturday 11 April 2020


by Murzban Jal

While the global epidemic followed by the lockdown seems strange at least to a major part of the human population, a close look at this reveals that it is the essence of modern industrial production. In the Manifesto Marx and Engels say that the bourgeoisie has like a magician "conjured up such gigantic means of production and exchange", but is unable to "control the powers of the netherworld".

It is the Manifesto that depicts with alarming accuracy the mechanisms of modern capitalist society. It notes how capitalism is essentially crises ridden. Consequently: " In these crises there breaks out an epidemic that, in all earlier epochs, would have seemed an absurdity— the epidemic of overproduction. Society suddenly finds itself put back in a state of momentary barbarism; it appears as if a famine, a universal war of devastation had cut of subsistence; industry and commerce seem to be destroyed; and why? Because there is too much civilization, too much industry, too much commerce."

The Manifesto also claims that the bourgeoisie also has a solution for this crises—"enforced destruction of a mass of productive forces...that is to say, by paving the way for more extensive and more destructive crises.." The Covid epidemic then is not something alien to capitalism, but essential to it.

Likewise in the third part of Theories of Surplus Value Marx says that the world market is "overcrowded", such that "stoppage" occurs. The stoppage has occured. The question is that do we need continuation of capitalism with it’s essential barbarism, or a human society based on production of human needs.

Capitalism and imperialism will keep on creating enemies, visible and invisible. Covid is a commodity produced both in the factory of capitalism and in the cranium of imperialism. Rosa Luxemburg’s question "Socialism or Barbarism" gets to be more meaningful. We have now to choose. It is global humanity that matters now.

It is as simple as that.

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