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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 30, New Delhi, July 11, 2020

An Unrelenting Covid-19 Irritates Capitalism No End

Saturday 11 July 2020, by Badri Raina

Through some three centuries of the European Renaissance, Capitalism came to be the dominant social force in the western world.

New economic relations of production ruthlessly displaced more humane forms of human association, even as earlier relations of production employed their own means of exploitation Capitalism simply made the expropriation of human labour an uncompromising founding principle of the class-based accumilaltion of wealth, causing the alienation of the human from nature, from the “other”, and eventually from the self.

As the new Exchange economies ousted barter, the force of money (which D.H.Lawrence, in an unfortunate sexist epithet, was famously to christen “the bitch goddess”) combined with new nationalisms and cultural assertions (race being a primary one) to generate the era of imperialism (which Lenin identified as the “highest stage of Capitalism”).

Riding the wings of the power of science (which Capitalism rapidly degraded to the status of instrumentalist technologies), Capitalism came to survive many prognostications of its impending doom—be it through a litany of brute anti-labour laws and devastatingly perpetual wars.

Even as closer to our own time, the ravages wrought by the Capitalist mode of production on the natural world began to bring home the prospect of a global earth- collapse, the news of Capitalisms’s demise has continued to seem far-fetched and exaggerated, even conspiratorial, to those who rule and own the world’s markets.
After all, the melting of the icebergs, the disappearance of species, the hot rise of the oceans, the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, still seem distant threats, if threats at all, to the Capitalist juggernaut of profit maximisers, and out of sight from their mansions.

But, now the frustratingly invisible but all-too-real preponderance of the Covid virus in the very teeth of everything that Capitalism can throw at it, seems maddening to the lords of currency.

And science, which once made Capitalism a force for the future, seems now an enemy to its further enhancements and to its precipitate ambitions. Not a day passes when the political warlords of the world are not obliged to chaff at the bit when they hear one scientist after another insist on the dire reality and career of the recalcitrant molecule of RNA. Suddenly, unlike what seem like far-fetched threats from climate change, the virus has the mighty proprieters of Capital at wit’s end. No wonder, then, that even in the most technologically advanced nation of the world, America, science and scientist who bring only bad news for Capital are sought to be either wished away by Trump and Trumpians, or maligned as the devil’s advocates, or enemy agents, perhaps even the “workers of the world” in vermin form. The Covid seems as vicious to the Capitalist class as Copernicus had seemed to the Church and the Fuedal masters of land, and sea.
As the world has come to lose the bulk of its acquisitions, rightwingers seek to demolish the virus not by scientific methods but oratories from one impatient pulpit or the other. Even voodoo seems welome if it can bring the greenbacks back into the stock-markets and sundry currency vaults of the Capitalist world. Indeed, the world’s most powerful leader was to go so far as to recommend that people inject themselves with disinfectants to return to sound productive health.

Think that the bloody virus is making it difficult for the most puissant to go among the innocent and win more elections.

In that context, more than any other precipitate gaffs Trump may have made in attacking the virus and those who caution against it, with invective and ideology, the letter written here at home by the Indian Council of Medical Research to some twelve medical locations where attempts are being made to produce a vaccine rather takes the cake. This letter dated July 2 instructs, if not orders, them to produce the vaccine “latest by August 15” for “public health use” (

August 15, it will be recalled, is India’s Independence Day when some memorable speech is expected from the ramparts of the Red Fort. Sadly, that may have to wait.
Another matter that the ICMR seems now to have put a gloss on its direction as inscribed in its aforesaid letter in the face of push-back by scientists, however softly articulated. The ICMR now claims that the instructions about the dateline were intended only to speed up the process of producing the vaccine and to “cut red tape”.

One influential sadhu –an industrialist several times over as well—has gone on to claim on public television that his establishment has already concocted a remedy assuring hundred per cent success, only to be gently rebuffed once again by some men and women of science who saw the catastrophe in-waiting (

Given that leaders of some big nations have recently articulated how the coming century is ordained to be theirs, clearly through an efflorescence of the power of Capital, Covid -19 has put a distressing monkey wrench into those declamations. Already, more than any other calamity the world has experienced over the last four centuries or so, the lowly Covid is busy destroying the world’s Capital at a catastrophic rate.

More than the loss of lives seems the loss of Capital, alas.

This should not surprise. Notice how Capitalism has taught us to associate “sentiment”, “carnage,” “bloodbath” not with any human subject or human tragedy but with the career of the stock market. It is the currency that has “sentiment” and that bleeds; human beings only expire uneventfully and inconsequentially.

Indeed, a Donald Trump may well be thinking that the Anarchists, Marxists, sundry Radical Left-Wingers, defeated thus far in their human incarnations, have transmogrified into this virus, playing a dirty trick on the glorious further prospects of Capital’s conquests.

That suggests the curiosity: can it be hoped that the world’s economic arrangements in a post-Covid future may indeed see radical (to use that detested word again) transformations?

I simply do not have the bravery to prognosticate.

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