Matters of Concern to the Polity

Why Should the Pandemic Shut Down the Economy?

The shutdown of many sectors of the economy has unleashed a terrible economic crisis. Over two million workers have been fired and millions more are on reduced work-time, joining the more than one million who were already unemployed.[1] The situation in the United States has become even worse in many respects.

The global pandemic is a public health crisis and should not in itself result in such a severe economic crisis. Not only do many of the measures governments at various levels and enterprises have taken to contain the virus generate hardships for people in addition to the tragic consequences from COVID-19, but they damage the economy in unprecedented ways. This is due to internal reasons within the organization of the economy as well as the aim of those in control, which is and remains to be to serve very narrow private interests while using the needs of the people as a conduit for doing so. How the governments and big business are intervening in the economy at this time reveals why a pandemic can unleash devastating damage beyond the direct effect on the health of the people.

The biggest problem remains the one of who sets the agenda for the country and decides what policies should be adopted. The people are simply on the receiving end of whatever is decided and have no say in setting their living and working conditions or how they can contribute to the well-being of all.

There are many examples of how the ruling elite compound irrationality simply because they have the power to do so and deprive workers of their right to a say and to make decisions that favour the people and society.

The already badly damaged health care system, which has been deprived of funds for decades, is being further demobilized as hospitals and clinics are labelled virus hot zones and people are told to stay away and postpone treatment. Instead of finding ways consciously to deal with the pandemic without making the health of the people worse in other ways, thousands of surgeries and other treatments have been delayed and people hide their ailments and do not request help from medical professionals as fear mounts of seeking treatment.

Those in control of the food supply, especially the global cartels engaged in agribusiness have workers packed together in unsafe conditions at the best of times, which are a complete disaster in a pandemic.

During the pandemic the ruling elite insist on cutting mass transit instead of expanding it with more buses and trains containing fewer passengers per unit of service and with constant cleaning and other workers mobilized to supervise passengers on how to use the service safely.

Instead of mobilizing teachers, other education workers and students to determine how to safely care for themselves and continue their education in reorganized physical space and time during the pandemic, the ruling elite have shut them out of any decision-making. Teachers, other education workers and students have been sent home to fend for themselves in great uncertainty, without any power to deal with the situation in a coherent, rational way that favours the people.

Meanwhile, many big businesses whose workers have been deployed to work from home or that have laid off their workers will seek to make these arrangements permanent in attempts "to cut down costs."

To reorganize in a safe manner becomes to those in control, an issue of losing private profit, which they refuse to do because they persist in repeating that making profits for the few is synonymous with prosperity for the many, which is simply not true. For the ruling elite to have the workers themselves lead the reorganization to combat COVID-19 is completely out of the question. Nonetheless, the conditions of pandemic have opened a Pandora's Box, which exposes the ruling oligarchs as a hindrance to sorting out the problems of the economy as can be seen in how attempts to "re-open the economy" are based on an irresponsible belief that things can carry on in the old way despite the conditions no longer permitting that to happen. A movement and consciousness which envisions a new pro-social aim and direction for the economy under the control of the working class is taking hold as the collectives of workers take measures to deal with the pandemic in a manner which favours them. The more the increasingly irrational anti-people actions of the imperialist oligarchy are exposed, the more people lay the claims which they must and take measures to make sure they are met.


1. See summary of Statistics Canada Labour Force Survey, April 2020 in the supplement to this edition of TML Weekly.

This article was published in

Volume 50 Number 17 - May 16, 2020

Article Link:
Matters of Concern to the Polity: Why Should the Pandemic Shut Down the Economy?


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