The second wave is here. While the first wave was a shock to many, no one should be surprised by the resurgence of COVID-19. The fact of the matter is that business leaders and their politicians in government have rushed to reopen the economy knowing full well that this would endanger lives. As cases have increased, governments have been reluctant to do anything that would impact the profits of the bosses. The truth is that capitalism itself has brought on the second wave.
After finally flattening the curve of the first wave, we have thus stumbled blindly into the second wave with new cases skyrocketing each day. On Sep. 23 in a televised address to the country, the Prime Minister stated that “We are on the brink of a fall that could be much worse than the spring.” But how did we get here?
Profit undermines the fight against COVID
Earlier this year while COVID-19 was spreading quickly, federal and provincial governments reacted slowly. With the Canadian economy teetering on the edge of a recession, politicians in Canada were not quick to implement any measures which would negatively affect the profits of the bosses. The result of this is already known: more than 9,000 people died, 81 per cent being elderly people in long-term care homes.
While we had a temporary respite over the summer, the severity of the economic crisis triggered by this pandemic set in. Trying to avert a complete collapse, that same power which led to foot-dragging during the first wave engaged in a concerted push to reopen the economy. Profit has systematically undermined our fight against COVID-19.
Essential to getting the profits flowing again has been getting the kids back to school so the workers can go back to work. The carelessness with which capitalist politicians attempted to do this was shown in the initial back-to-school plans which contained little or no reduction in class sizes, lax standards with regards to wearing masks and next to nothing in extra funding. This was in spite of studies showing that opening the schools has been a significant factor in the second wave of the pandemic. All the while, the government was showering corporate Canada with unimaginable sums of cash.
To lockdown or not to lockdown?
As the virus spreads easily in close quarters, the general lockdown of non-essential businesses was necessary in order to flatten the curve the first time around. While Trudeau has insisted that “we have the power to get this second wave under control. I know we can do it, because we already did it once before,” conspicuously absent from Trudeau’s speech was any mention of new lockdown measures. There is a reason for this.
In Quebec, which has fared the worst of any of the provinces, Premier François Legault has taken to blaming people for having too many parties. This is in spite of the fact that for weeks he resisted shutting down non-essential businesses such as bars and restaurants. Quebec Finance Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon let the cat out of the bag in mid-September when he said that a new lockdown would be a “disaster” for the economy. Protecting the pocket books of their capitalist buddies seems to be higher on the CAQ’s priority list than public health.
Legault himself, attempting to calm the fears of the business community, stated that any lockdown would be “by region or even sub-region.” The ironic thing is that it is precisely the inaction of the government, combined with the rushed back-to-school plan, which made generalized lockdown measures inevitable. At the time of writing there are cases in more than 500 schools in Quebec, and Montreal and Quebec City have just entered lockdown. This would have been unnecessary if the required preventative actions had been taken.
In Ontario, daily cases peaked on Monday, Sep. 28 at the highest they have been since the beginning of the pandemic. As if symbolically representing how capitalists are gambling with our very lives, the same day several casinos opened all over the province!
However, Premier Doug Ford still hasn’t implemented general lockdown measures. Responding to the demand of the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) to re-implement restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said, “We don’t want to turn back a stage unless we absolutely have to.”
Ford has stated that the second wave would be “more complicated, more complex—it’ll be worse.” However, Ontario Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. David Williams said that Ontario is only considering “targeted” measures, and has not provided any details about which measures and which areas they would be targeting. Similar to Quebec, the Ontario government seems to be hedging their bets, blaming individuals for partying while also keeping bars, clubs, and restaurants open.
Fight for socialism
What we have here is governments walking a tightrope, not wanting to implement a lockdown for fear of the impact it would have on the capitalist economy. This is all in spite of the fact that 76 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a new lockdown to fight COVID-19.
The short-termism of the capitalists is astounding. Studies have shown that there is no tradeoff between health and the economy. Countries that have resisted measures to contain the virus, and therefore have the highest proportion of cases, have also had worse economic results. This is not surprising when you consider that the pandemic itself limits economic activity.
This is how capitalism handles a major pandemic. Short-term profits come before health. We saw the second wave coming but the profiteering of the capitalists dragged us right into it. Three-hour lines at testing centres and delays in processing results show a criminal short-sightedness. Of course, it is not the bosses who will suffer from this. They will be safe at home as they pressure their friends in government to keep the economy open and force us to risk our lives working.
The irrational nature of capitalism which undermines the fight against COVID-19 reinforces the need to fight for a new society, one freed from the profiteering of the capitalists where control is in the hands of working class people. The problems in our health-care system were brutally laid bare by COVID-19, but have been highlighted for decades by health-care workers. If control of health care, education and the economy in general was in the hands of the workers, genuine measures to deal with the pandemic would have replaced the current mess. Workers are in the best position to know which workplaces to close or leave open and which health and safety measures are necessary.
As governments are reluctant to implement lockdowns, it seems likely that the second wave will be worse than the first. This is the social murder committed by the capitalist system. The rich minority make sure that profits take precedence over the health and needs of workers. We need a new society run by the workers to put social needs ahead of corporate profit. Capitalism is the disease, socialism is the cure.