As the world is contending with the crisis of the Covid-19 coronavirus, we are once again presented with the reality of the sharp social contradictions that exist in a market society.
While Covid-19 is a health concern, the socio-political and economic consequence is evident.
The global economy is experiencing a state of panic due to the threat of global markets destabilisation as a result of the pandemic.
In a recent article published in Rabobank written by Hugo Erken, he argues that the global economic growth will amount to 1.6% this year and 3.2% next year.
Erken argues that the global economic impact of the pandemic is almost certainly going to be greater than that of the SARS epidemic in 2002/2003.
He gives two reasons for this: the first being that the share of the Chinese economy in the total global economy is currently 20% which is significantly higher than it was in 2003.
The second reason is that the Chinese economy is more connected with the rest of the world than it was 10 to 20 years ago and as such, China has evolved into the worlds’ factory.
The economic severity of the matter can be more understood through US President’ Donald Trump’s confession that their economy is likely to encounter an economic recession.
There is little uncertainty that the economies of the developing countries will be severely affected, particularly those that rely on exports and imports.
On the domestic front, the South African economy is going through a turbulent time. The economy is contracting, unemployment is rising and the inequality gap is widening.
Covid-19 poses a threat to our economy because it will impact consumer behaviour and productivity in key industries such as manufacturing.
This, of course, may result in decreasing production volumes and subsequently laying off workers or even cutting down on employees.
With this bleak economic reality, the ruling elite all over the world are confronted with a difficult question: “To save the economy or the people?”
For the past few days, the news headlines of major media institutions have been providing analysis on Covid-19, concerning its effects on financial markets.
Less has been said about its impact on the lives of ordinary people.
There is no doubt that the poor and the working class will be the most affected by the spread of Covid-19.
For instance, in South Africa the public health system is already overwhelmed.
There are glaring issues of insufficient human resources, infrastructure backlogs and the use of outdated technology.
The immediate response to reducing the risk of Covid-19 infection requires limited interaction with people. In reality, the country’s public transport system is heavily reliant on the taxi industry and the majority of our working class are dependent on public transport.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand the risks associated with over-crowding at taxi ranks and how easily this virus can be transmitted.
Amid the call to self-isolate, the working class are expected to report for duty in overcrowded production floors to meet daily production targets.
The workers are required to report for duty in large retail stores as cashiers and cleaners to support the capitalist economy.
On the other hand, while we are dealing with the spread of the Covid-19, the demand for masks and sanitisers is driving their prices up to levels that the poor can’t afford.
The logic of capitalism implies that even amid a life-threatening crisis, the accumulation of profit is regarded as a priority.
The truth is that under the system of capitalism that has produced nothing but poverty and inequality during times of crisis such as the Covid-19, the poor are condemned to death!
There is no better time for the masses to unite and contest the unending temptation of market societies to accumulate profit at the expense of the people.
We must organise ourselves and compel the state to monitor and discipline the markets against wanting to make a profit out of this crisis at the expense of the people.
The state must ensure that it protects the vulnerable masses from the selfish interests of capitalism.
I believe that this crisis is an opportunity for us to expose the fundamental flaws of capitalism, which are inequality and poverty, that have condemned people all over the world to inhuman conditions.
All progressive forces should make a case against capitalism and introduce a new system that will close the gap between the rich and the poor and fight against poverty.
The words of Ben Okri have never been so pertinent when he remarked that: “Sometimes it seems that awful things in history happen to compel us to achieve the impossible, to challenge our idea of humanity.”
This is the moment for us to rise and change the world for the better!
Mkutu is writing in his capacity as an activist
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