Interview with SEP Leader Güneş Gümüş on Covid-19 Pademic: “No Return to Normal”
The coronavirus turned capitalism upside down with its economic, social, political and humanitarian consequences. The diameter of chaos is growing with the addition of a new country every day. For now, we are only witnessing some of the consequences of this global epidemic, which is even shocking enough. In many countries of the world, the economy is at a standstill, big big cities are under quarantine, more than 30 thousand people have already died and continue to die, health systems are collapsing, borders are closing… But in terms of the historical results of the corona, these are like a beginning. ILO announced that 25 million people could be unemployed due to this pandemic. Once this disaster has been overcome, a clear sailing for capitalism is not seem possible; It will not be surprising for hungry and angry millions to leave their homes and take the streets.
We talked to SEP President Güneş Gümüş about the important issues and question marks raised by the corona pandemic, one of the biggest crises in the history of the world capitalism.
Isn't this virus that ravages the world after all, a product of nature? How to explain the accusation of capitalism because its consequences are disastrous?
Güneş Gümüş: Of course, viruses and bacteria are part of nature. Humanity has been struggling for centuries to control their consequences. Today, we have extraordinary opportunities in this struggle, but the functioning of the capitalist system is hindering this issue. For example, China tried to ignore and cover up the epidemic caused by the virus for a while due to its economic results. However, if there was a human-centered order and early intervention, there would not be such a big explosion in Wuhan; it would not spread to the world to this extent. While the epidemic has reached very high levels in China, European or US rulers have lost time by not taking the necessary measures. While such pandemics require planning and coordination at international level, planning cannot be made even among various companies and sectors in this system. In this pandemic, we have clearly seen how imperialist rivalry, the nation states and the free market have turned into an obstacle to human civilization. International solidarity does not emerge from a system that cares about profit and imperial interests, not billions of people and the planet we live on. Another critical point is that the privatization of basic rights, including health, to the free market in the last 40 years has devastating consequences in the fight against Corona. In Italy, where more than 10 thousand deaths occurred, the number of healthcare personnel has decreased by 50 thousand and the number of beds in hospitals has decreased by 70 thousand in the last 10 years. While the number of beds per thousand people in 1970s was close to 11 in Italy, now it is not even 3! In terms of the number of intensive care units and respiratory devices, the number of deaths caused by Corona is doubled.
The issue is not limited to the inadequate means of intervention with the pandemic in the capitalist; The masters of this system, which focuses on profit, not human life, are not willing to continue this struggle well. Malthusian theses, which say that such disasters are needed to establish the balance between the population and what nature can offer to people, are especially used by the ruling class. It was scandoulasly written in the columns of the important newspapers of England that this epidemic may have long-term benefits such as removing the elderly who are only a burden on society.
Or the US super-richs are ventured millions of deaths rather than a economical stop. For example, Dick Kovacevic, CEO of Wells Fargo in the U.S., said, "We'll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don't know,"he can say that. Or billionaire Tom Golisano says "The damages of keeping the economy closed as it is could be worse than losing a few more people," In the USA, where the health system is completely private and many people do not have health insurance, a large number of homeless population and systematic problems such as obesity are wide, 600 thousand people may die from corona if the economy continues to operate. The situation is not different in England. Prime Minister Johnson, now himself and his father are also tested Covid positive, said that they would try herd immunity, but he had no worries other than the bosses who would be affected by the economy and the economic ruin.
In terms of the attitude in the face of pandemic, England and the USA are accepted as very bad examples, but Canada and Germany are presented to us as praiseworthy. What can you say about that?
Güneş Gümüş: The ruling classes and the political leaders of the USA or Germany are no different in terms of protecting the interests of the bosses. They differ only in the way to protect the interests While there is still no accurate healthcare system in the USA, competition with China has risen at the top of the world, and while the economy is not getting much better, it is costly to get vigilant about corona, and therefore they are more reluctant. Germany and Canada, who do not need to take precautions when the outbreak hits advanced dimensions in China, are only on the lookout for overcoming the economic ruin. In fact, Sweden, one of the social welfare countries, has taken almost no striking measures for people, to prevent the economy from disrupting. Even in countries where they tell the workers “stay at home and we will help you” , great economic support flows to the bosses and layoffs continue. Those who give great support to the big bosses give charity to the working class. With this charity, there is the concern to keep the economy running;it is not something about wellbeing of working class.
Let's talk about the prominence of China in this process while talking about the countries' struggles with the corona pandemic.
Güneş Gümüş: Well, yesterday, a neighbor of mine who is a health worker praised China for the best countries coped with this virus were the communist countries. The situation of seeing China as a “communist” continues throughout the society. But as many know, a very violent capitalist regime prevails in China. The order in China is nothing more than an authoritarian capitalist regime that brutally exploits its working class, immigrant workers and even workers in many countries with their worldwide investments. This authoritarian planning ability seems to have made China successful against corona. In particular, China stands powerful, sends aid to Italy and Eastern European countries, not to miss this opportunity to increase its worldwide hegemony.
But China is actually responsible for the spread of these disease. As we all know, an ophthalmologist was blocked while trying to alert the government in China to take early action on the emergence of this virus. But Chinese ruling classes with SARS and MERS experiences preferred to hide such an infectious disease issue as much as they could trying to avoid the collapse of exports and economy. If the necessary precautions were taken at that time, we could not be dealing with such effective pandemic at this level worldwide today. However, the Chinese ruling classes kept the people at home with hard power, closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. But fighting against the pandemic could be voluntarily under control under a working regime which considers human life.
What would be different if such a pandemic appeared in a socialist order?
Güneş Gümüş: Even if weestablish a socialist order, even though there is a communist society around the world, the struggle to reduce the deep effects of the nature, of which human is a part, on humanity will not end. Of course, on the other hand, a great effort will be required to improve the damage caused by capitalism on natural life. On the other hand, we can also encounter such a pandemic under socialism. First of all, it should be said that such pandemics do not emerge at any unexpected moment and science could predict the possibilities. For example, we know that scientists warned about a global pandemic danger many years before the corona pandemic. As a result of these reports, the World Economic Forum has repeatedly stated that infectious diseases are among the top 10 global risks. However, the ruling classes ignored these warnings to avoid undertaking the cost of measures on infectious diseases.
Since human life is our main priority in a socialist order, we will have the opportunity to evaluate the outbreak possibilities in advance and take the necessary precautions to prevent the epidemic. Let's say an epidemic has developed despite every measure; Even then, the capacity of a socialist order to fight such a pandemic cannot be compared to capitalism. At the very beginning, capitalist governments tried to hide the outbreak from the public or reduce the danger so that there are no disruptions in the commodity circulation. China, US, Russia, Britain, Iran and Turkey's explanations reflects this concern. Sheer carelessness was the case in Italy and Spain. We witnessed that no coordination and solidarity could be achieved even between EU countries. As a result, we were dragged into a complete disaster blatantly.
Since capitalism is not a planned economy, it does not have the capacity to rapidly reorganize production on the basis of human needs. However, in a socialist order, the whole industry can quickly focus on the production of essential health equipment by separating the workplaces that work for the production of essential substances.
First of all, in socialism, nobody has any worries about work, food and future. There is a much stronger society facing with big problems, with resources available for extraordinary situations, preventive health care and prepared work-power.
Unlike the order of the bosses who try to avoid taking quarantine measures to keep the profit mechanism running, a socialist regime takes a step to prevent its spread by quarantine where the outbreak originated. For example, if China had accepted the existence of an epidemic in the Wuhan region, which is important for the export of China, we would be in another situation today. However, while a socialist regime is rapidly restructuring its industry over other regions, it can take the most advanced steps to treat the people there by successfully isolating the epicenter of the epidemic from the rest of the society.
Finally, everyone says that nothing will be the same once this pandemic is over. What would you like to say about this subject; what will change? Even smong the left intellectuals, there is a pessimism; Thinking that the rulers, who have gained increased authority in their hands, will open the door to more authoritarian-fascist forms of government in the face of the endless crisis. Future awaits for us, but how?
Güneş Gümüş: It would not be an exaggeration to say that the corona pandemic will open the door for a new era. Even if the corona virus disappears, the results will be severe. It is often spoken that the economic ruin caused by the corona pandemic will be even beyond the crash of 1929. While the effects of the 2008 crisis have not been eliminated yet, a large number of closed businesses and unemployed people will significantly reduce their consumption capacity. The Chinese economy, which was the locomotive for the world economy in the 2008 crisis, was already in a slowdown, the situation will be worse after the corona. For the first time since China's Cultural Revolution, negative growth occurred in China in the first quarter of 2020. Moreover, exports are decisive for the Chinese economy and when demand drops in the world, it will also decrease significantly. The US economy was giving recession signals for 2020. The situation after Corona will be serious. The U.S. Treasury Secretary says unemployment can climb to 20%, which was 10% in the 2008 crisis. Deutsche Bank estimates that the US economy may shrink by 12.9% in the second quarter of 2020. The biggest shrinkage of the last 80 years. The Minister of Finance of France says that this crisis can only be compared with the 1929 crisis and that only 25% of the normal level of French industry is in operation. The International Labor Organization announced that 25 million people may loe their jobs due to the crisis caused by Corona.
The destruction caused by neoliberal policies has become public. It is understood that the privatization of health care meant to disregard human life. The order of bosses is intensely questioned everywhere. Especially in Turkey, working classes are trapped between working at risk of corona or dealing with the unemployment and worrying about how to live at home. We can clearly say that there will be no return to normal! 2019 witnessed major revolts in Chile, France, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and many other countries we could not count. When the quarantine created by the corona ends and the economic ruin on the back of the laborer becomes clearer, it will be much easier for the masses to get pissed off. Especially in Italy, Spain and France, we can say that the labor riots are on the horizon. Some left-wing intellectuals think that the powers that have held extraordinary powers in this period will become harsher and authoritarian against the possible public reaction. Of course, the gilding of bourgeois rulers shed quickly under the crisis. But the rule of oppression exists if the masses obey it. It is difficult to prevent it when the mass movement run the gauntlet. The army went down the street in Chile was not enough to turn the masses out of the way. The main thing to fear is whether revolutionary organizations are ready to lead the struggle when the masses knock the door of the rebellion. If they are not ready, the masses who cannot see their way will waste their energy, get tired and retreat no matter how great anger and excitement they have.