Tuesday, 07 July 2020

Virus and class struggle

As we have emphasized more than once, the virus spread through an organism already sick and in serious trouble.  There were many warning signs of the production and financial system collapsing and it was just a matter of time before the dramatic social consequences of the latest global crack made themselves felt.  If the big 2009/09 crisis was stemmed with difficulty without re-launching the mechanism of accumulation, the latest one on the horizon could have been lethal.  Debts too high, average profit rate too low, underlying social inequalities too great to imagine much leeway for any pacific management of the new scenario within the limits of the system’s more or less democratic order.


It would be interesting to have access to the answers big data provided to the questions posed by study centres serving big capital in order to discover the system’s chances of survival. Given the preconditions, we imagine they have caused a slight tremor at the very least. The system needs to act in advance.  Whether what came afterwards was pure chance or somehow provoked is of little importance.  By embracing the latter theory there is the risk of over-estimating capital’s ability to manage and control its own contradictions, though it is true that today the Moloch has acquired such concentrated power and such technological tools and scientific and military apparatus, that reality may extend well beyond our imagination.  Not knowing, we can say nothing but neither shall we fall into the trap of excluding “science fiction” hypotheses a priori simply for fear of being labelled… conspiracy theorists.  Today anything that deviates from the voice of the mainstream is attacked, isolated, discredited and counted as fake news or censored, yet by browsing the web interesting things can also be spotted (1). 

Without confirming any of the many ideas (some weird, others far less so) circulating about this virus, we shall assume, simply for the sake of argument, the reading given by the Nobel Prize-winner Luc Montagnier, which earned him a deluge of attacks in the media, demoting him from luminary to a bumbling old idiot (2).  Not even Nobels are accorded respect when the sensitive nerves of capital are touched!  Be that as it may, the great virologist maintained he had proof that the virus had escaped – he says by chance, others see the hand of America behind it – from a secret laboratory in Wuhan, not far from the famous wet market of infectious bats.  But what is even more interesting, continues the Nobel Prize-winner, is that the virus was apparently produced in the laboratory as an HIV vaccine… Thus the vaccine invoked by the mainstream as the only final solution to the epidemic was supposed to act against a virus/vaccine.  This is pure science fiction and we have no elements of support for this thesis, authoritative though it is, nor for refusing it, either.  Nonetheless we can take it as a metaphor to try and make sense of what happened afterwards and is still going on. 

As far as we know, the function of a vaccine is to activate an organism’s immune system and encourage the production of specific antibodies against a determined disease.  This, it appears, is the principle.  Well, if we consider the effects of the coronavirus on capital’s social and production organism, on the capital-organism, we can see its effectiveness in artificially sparking off a series of antibodies at the political, social and economic level.  Capital’s immune system incorporated certain potential resources that needed to be activated to contrast the effects of the serious pathogens that were circulating.  If the predicted disease had come about spontaneously, this potential would perhaps have been activated too late to effectively contrast the pathogenic factors in the system and thus save it.

Now unprepared to face up to the chronic diseases and more and more frequent emergencies by means of democratic rituals, politics has for some time been developing authoritarian deviations, lying in wait everywhere and already manifest in some Eastern European régimes.  The coronavirus goes beyond this: without overthrowing the democratic institutional balance, it puts it in a position to act according to an emergency régime, suspending “sacred bourgeois freedoms” from one day to the next, by a series of decrees.  The effect is paralyzing.  Fear pervades the deepest nooks and crannies of society, managing to penetrate into the most intimate dimensions by flaunting the threat of “the triumph of death”.  The scenario shown daily at all hours confirmed and amplified the sense of tragedy:  dying patients, military trucks laden with coffins, mass graves. The screenplay regarded a local situation but presented it as potentially generalized.  The message had its effect:  “Death will triumph if you, the citizen, do not collaborate by supporting the common cause – to defeat the invisible enemy – by your silence and immobility.”  In this reading, the responsibility for the possible catastrophe is not to be attributed to an anti-human social system, which places the needs of the species in bottom place and business at the top (and is thus incapable of responding to the emergency without improvising, but highly successful at exploiting new opportunities for earning money).  Oh no, the responsibility is made to fall on the shoulders of the individual, bound to obey, so as not to seem a plague-spreader – antisocial.  The mask covering the face symbolically represents the imposition of silence, the silence of criticism, when totalitarian communication admits only those who repeat or amplify the message of the mainstream: “Danger threatens.  Stay at home!” (3)  The fate of those who dare to practise critical thinking is an overall media attack filled with indignation and reproof, if not worse (4).  Servility is rife and, what is worse, nurtured by sincere faith in the truth of the mainstream message.

Faced with a common enemy that cancels out any other emergency and monopolizes attention, all differences seem to disappear, above all those of class.  Any embryo of antagonism, of organized struggle is annulled, any form of physical closeness is an illegal gathering.  Before an audience of silent and isolated individuals it is the State that speaks through its experts/scientists.  There is not just the fear of the virus but also that of advancing poverty and the verses of the old Venetian patriots’ ode of 1849 are again topical:  "Il morbo infuria, il pan ci manca, sul ponte sventola bandiera bianca" (“The disease rages, bread is lacking, on the bridge the white flag flies.”)  There is the overall surrender of society to the State: but the State is a class State and those who bend their heads to its authority in the emergency are the proletarians and the half classes destined to be weeded out.  The others – the few – are busy reaping the benefits of the general impoverishment even before the virus disappears and there is a return to profitable capitalist normality.  Fear of the virus prepares the fear of hunger.  Cultivated within the four walls of home, it becomes an individual feeling that cannot be shared except within the close circle of private relations.  Fear weakens, compromises the immune system, exposes us to infection, demoralizes and creates an environment unsuited to solidarity and battle.  The only solidarity allowed is that of the nation’s health.  The prime effect of the virus/vaccine is to produce antibodies to contrast the onset of capital’s main pathology:  class struggle.

But the virus/vaccine has also been highly effective in activating a crucial shift in the social organization of work.  In the long months of the emergency, home-working has become widespread, which, in the sticky-sweet and optimistic view of capitalist sociologists, becomes smart working, quick and intelligent work.

And it is, if considered from the point of view of capital, since – unlike teleworking – it takes place amidst a complete absence of rules (5).  This allows capital to save on production costs, which are transferred to the employee’s home, in terms of both equipment and service costs.  And even if these costs were computed in the final pay packet, they would certainly be lower than the costs of managing work on company premises, whilst from the “salary”, the employer can save on meal tickets and the cost of transport to get to work.  The reduction of production costs and layout on salaries is not the only advantage for capital.  In establishing work tasks, capital has the opportunity to increase the workload, confident of the physical isolation in which the salaried work terminal finds itself.  In his/her new condition the proletarian might even consider him/herself to be at an advantage but in reality, anguish accumulates inside him/her: to get to work, there is no need to go outside; work is right there in the four walls of home, amidst family and everyday household objects.  Work penetrates deeply into his/her inner life, invading it.  The communist objective to combine work and life, making work a free, vital and creative aspect of existence, is obtained by capital by reducing the whole of existence to salaried or pseudo-freelance work, whichever it is.  This is how, with the decisive contribution of the virus/vaccine, the shift of office work in its various forms moves to a harsher level of subordination, of dependence on the machine, of control and tracing of the operations delegated to the salaried worker.  The shift is analogous to that analysed by Marx with the reduction of the worker to an appendix of the machine which, from the point of view of producing value is equivalent to the move from absolute to relative plusvalue.  As in mechanised/automised factories the worker’s labour completely loses its autonomy in the production process, in the same way the smart employee is reduced to becoming a mere terminal of the IT machine and the constant updating of software increases individual productivity.  To some extent this also takes place on company premises but there the physical presence and relations of the worker with his/her peers guarantees a certain degree of humanity and constitutes an obstacle to the full realization of capitalist dominion, which finds its preferred referent in the individual.  Applied to the working condition, solitude and isolation lead to the fragmentation of work, which is the perfect sub-soil for affirming an ideal model of the human being reduced by capital to a producer-consumer.  Capital can freely unleash itself against the individual: if in the secret of the polling booth he/she is politically reduced to a dupe, as a consumer the only defence of a limited availability of income can easily be overcome by running up debts. Having exhausted his/her dual function as producer-consumer, the preferred outcome would be for him/her to kick the bucket (indeed, Covid-10 proved particularly aggressive in rest-homes).

The second effect of the virus/vaccine is therefore to push forward subordination at work and confine it to a private space.  Having activated the antibody that attacks the possibility of cultivating human relations, the only relation that must survive is that of commerce, whilst all the rest tends to become reduced to mere virtual connection.

There remains the third, and perhaps most powerful, specific antibody that the virus is to activate: control over the biological existence of the human being.  Here there is a massive attack underway. During the emergency period, the representatives of health “science” assumed a leading role.  They were the ones to dictate the emergency guidelines to governments, to establish what was allowed and what was not.  Once again, politics handed the task of government over to the “experts”.  We were used to being subjected to the dictates of professors of economy, called upon in the recent past to solve the State’s debt crises with indiscriminate cuts to welfare. A significant percentage of the deaths due – directly or indirectly – to Covid-19 are due to policies proposed by the “technicians” authorized to put into practice what politics did not have the courage to.  Just as the economic experts dealt mortal blows to the welfare system, in the new crisis health experts decreed the need to do away with individual (and social) freedom and are dictating the guidelines of future policy, which through health measures is tending to upturn the present relations between the State and the citizen.  The facts clearly demonstrate once more the complete subordination of politics to capital.  If the economic experts were chosen from the highest échelons of international finance, the health experts are mostly projections of the WHO, a bureaucratic set-up in the hands of the big pharmaceutical companies.

In support of this power block, all the servility of the information system entered into action, filling the TV studios with the obsessively repeated mantra of social distancing as the only way to contain the disease.  Apart from this crude imposition, all of this exalted science made a high-powered measure available to the population:  wash your hands.  Some time later – after profound research and reflection to overcome initial doubts – the obligation to wear masks was added.  The people offer thanks and bow down before this great science.  Not a word about ways of reinforcing the immune system, which certainly do not include staying at home.  So much so that at one point the experts launched an alarm about the spread of the virus… inside the four walls of home!  Just as damaging to the immune system is the climate of terror and emergency and the forced immobility.  The contradictions and inadequacies of this measly approach became dramatically obvious in the hospitals and rest-homes, where the virus had a feast.  We cannot dwell here on these aspects, which we shall be better able to judge if and when the wave of emergency is over.  What is of interest is where the whole grotesque show is heading for.  Amongst the highest institutional figures, the self-proclaimed “people’s lawyer” (Italian Prime Minister Conte) declared that the health crisis would not be solved until “the vaccine” was present and the President of the Italian region Lazio echoed him, envisaging an obligatory anti-flu vaccine in the region.  These people bowed their heads to the polite request from Big Pharma to entrust the fate of public health to their business vocation and decreed that any solutions (such as the use of immune plasma, successfully experimented with by Dr. De Donno, or introducing oxygen into patients’ blood), no matter how very effective they had proved in the field, as well as being far cheaper than experimentation on drugs, should be relegated to old wives’ remedies.

It is not our intention here to dwell on the effectiveness of vaccines and their riskiness, which is also the object of a scientific debate completely obscured by the mass media. Wildly over-generalizing, in the television chat shows scientific theories that put forward any sort of doubt about vaccines are systematically labelled no-vax and lumped together with crazy and irresponsible new-age superstitions.  On this subject, let us leave the debate to those doctors and researchers who have not yielded to the logic of the health emergency as an occasion to profit from the health of human beings and demote them to the status of prisoners.   There are some, and some have the courage to reveal the crimes of the health industry (better call it “the sickness industry”), which in this situation have demonstrated what enormous lobbying pressure they exert on politics and institutions worldwide (6).  The fact is that this concentration of economic power with its strong links to the centres of political and institutional power seems to be expressing its own strategies to guarantee itself more generalized and pervasive powers of intervention in society.  The intention to make vaccination obligatory and even to guarantee that the indivudal/patient can be traced, so that complete health control can constantly be maintained over him/her, establishing pharmaceutical needs, monitoring body temperature and, through this monitoring of his/her physical reactions, even his or her emotional state, marks the shift from the right to be healthy to the obligation to be healthy (7).  Health is transformed into a social duty of the individual and whoever strays is transformed into a public enemy to be isolated and censored.  Permanent health assistance and the permanent provision of health commodities is imposed upon everyone by the health police.  In this new context the individual must no longer be considered healthy until he/she can give proof of the contrary: he/she must be ill, in need of care in any case.

In the same way we lose the principle upheld in the distant past by the revolutionary bourgeoisie, that the human being is free at birth:  today human beings are born caged in a powerful system of conditioning and control that directs their existence in the forms and ways functional to capital.  Here, too, we observe the same process of fragmentation seen in the smart organization of production and “remote” interpersonal relations.  From being a social issue, to be dealt with in terms of welfare, the management of health policy is becoming a commercial relationship between the producer company and the end consumer, mediated by the overall control system.  In this relationship, the company creates the need for health, just as any sort of production tends to create imagined needs that go well beyond those that are necessary and essential for the species. Creating illness is the precondition for perpetuating care.  Managing and controlling sick individuals is easier than managing and controlling healthy ones. 

Immunization of the species by means of vaccines is the precondition for creating a wide range of illnesses – some terrible, others banal but often chronic – statistically evident in those vaccinated and which are listed in microscopic print in the leaflets of the pharmaceutical companies.  Is it a coincidence that the lowest percentage of vaccinations is recorded amongst health carers, who are most exposed to infection and best informed on the components of the vaccines?  Is it a coincidence that almost all the members of the WHO in the highest positions – those who encourage the absolute need to vaccinate – are not themselves vaccinated?  Are we certain that the “philanthropist” Bill Gates, champion of vaccines, has himself and his children vaccinated and, like him, all the world’s supermen, who set themselves up to control the existence of billions of human beings?  Vaccines are not something for their lordships:  they are commodities destined for the multitude, for the huge market where the health-commodity is dealt in, stuff for the proletarians.

The third antibody activated by the virus/vaccine is thus to create the dependence of individuals on the system of provision of the health commodity, accompanied by tracing and permanent control.  One more step in the direction of strengthening the totalitarian system of managing society.

Lastly, the virus has induced further acceleration in the process of concentrating capital and polarizing society. Large-scale distribution by means of e-commerce has obtained gigantic advantages from the closure of other businesses, many of which are destined for bankruptcy.  Great benefits have also been reaped by forms of distribution using sophisticated apps and a highly exploited and under-paid staff of riders.  More in general, the shock of the pandemic is destroying small and medium-sized enterprises unable to survive prolonged closure.  Those who can save themselves, in all sectors, will be the bigger enterprises with more capital and easier access to credit, which will be able to buy up the market share freed by the destruction of a host of small competitors. The class structure of society will emerge profoundly changed: wide sectors of the middle-class and petty bourgeoisie are destined to plunge into the condition of the proletariat, whilst at the opposite end there will be a further increase in the weight of big companies operating online, e-commerce and the big groups integrated in the financial system.

We come to the conclusion that the virus didn’t bring the disease:  it just aggravated it; and this disease is called capitalism.  On its century-long historical path, the bourgeoisie advanced causes that are progressively turning into their exact opposite:  it affirmed the right to private property, and is destroying this by concentration and monopolies; it upheld the freedom to work, and is denying this by imposing conditions that are coming increasingly closer to slavery; it exalted sacred individual freedom, and is denying this by confining freedom of movement to the home; it celebrated the prerogatives of the individual as the driving force of society, and is confining it in a cage of ever-harsher and objective conditioning; it exalted the rights of a free society against the authority of the State, and has built the most powerful, oppressive and all-pervasive State history has ever experienced; it proclaimed itself a factor of historical progress in all fields, and now the world is threatened by an environmental and climate crisis that risks driving humanity back into direst barbarity.  All this with the support of a science conforming to the insterests of capital, which has given open proof of its servility in this health crisis.

Just to avoid any misunderstanding, we shall certainly not be the ones to set ourselves up as the defenders of individual prerogative, private property and democracy, even less so of the “right to work”, which to us is a synonym for right to exploitation.  But we do observe that in its historical evolution, whilst it destroys the preconditions for its own existence by reducing the quantity of human labour needed for production to a minimum, capital makes rubbish of the principles it arose out of and which are its very basis.  By proceeding in this way it has fully matured the conditions for its own overthrow and has opened the way to a future society that will restore fullness to the human being, returning to it its social dimension and freeing it from the need to possess and the institutions that legitimate this, freeing it from work that is necessity and suffering.  But at the same time, whilst the traits of the new society become clearer and clearer inside the decrepit shell of the old one, capital is equipping itself for the extreme effort to survive by activating all the resources and energy it can exert control over.  The potency of counter-revolution indicates the potency of the revolution.

The metaphor of the virus/vaccine provides us with elements for considering the hypothesis that today capital cannot limit itself to facing emergencies when they crop up, but must force these processes, creating emergencies so as to deal with them under the most favourable conditions and extracting from them opportunities for its survival: information technology and data management (also essential in the management of financial flow), able to collect the data, make use of it and distribute it according to its own needs, and biotechnology, which intervenes in the management of life-essential production (agriculture and livestock) and directly on the biological existence of the human being.  The Moloch tends to mold men and women, nurturing them and looking after them in ways that adapt them to its needs.

All this reveals itself as a show of omnipotence: yet these are still only the trials of a sorcerer’s apprentice that expose the system to strong reactions of rejection.  This is too complex and inter-connected a society to be manipulated as desired by the will of power groups, however strong, organized and equipped with super-technology.  The reality of capital is anything but perfect – it is chaotic: the information network is filled with cracks that cannot always be plastered over with the label of fake news, the social crisis drives people towards mass gatherings and the violation of the security State.  Even more than complexity, it is opposed by the very life needs of the human species in its relationship with nature.  This coronavirus episode with its accompanying features is certainly revealing one aspect of the evolution of capitalism in its terminal phase.  The economic issue is always central but capital has already lost the battle on this terrain. As it is incompatible with human needs, the system tends to adapt human needs to the necessities of the system itself.  The task it has set itself now is to manage the permanent crisis by using the formidable tools it has available, with no regard for anything or anyone.  But it has a formidable enemy before it – a proletariat emerging from the economic disaster with hugely swollen ranks.  The task of proletarians, which presents itself urgently and dramatically, is to get organized in order to defend the minimum conditions for a dignified and non-servile existence.  On this battleground they can resume the path, interrupted a century ago, towards the society of the future, a species-specific society.  Perhaps the last stretch of road began at the end of May: in Minneapolis.



1- Michael Roberts’ website dealt with the matter of Covid-19 from April onwards. It offers very useful analyses and data (https://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/).

2- The following is a link to an interview with Montagnier of 20 April 2020  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZPYEBo3_Qk.

3- In the following link there is an example of one of the many interviews by Italian philosopher Diego Fusaro, with a conspiracy-theory slant to them – not too much can be expected of a modern National-Bolshevik! – but sometimes successful, as in this case (https://www.radioradio.it/2020/04/la-dittatura-delle-mascherine-ennesima-prova-diego-fusaro/).

4- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSUOwF8ATSI. The link is to the video of the last long interview with Giulietto Chiesa, decidedly not a "Marxist" journalist but just as decidedly non-aligned, and on top form. Two days after the interview he died in his sleep, and there are those who have wondered if it was a "natural" death...

5- On the difference between teleworking and smart working, https://umanitanova.org/?p=12104. In the following link, the testimony of a smart worker at the time of the coronavirus:


6- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_YgEd-Kq24U is the link to a video defined “conspiracy theory” but rather convincing, by an American scientist, Judy Micovits, who ended up in jail for having revealed the findings of her research in military laboratories. Also worth viewing is the interview with Dr. Shiva on the deep state and the role of figures like Fauci, the virologist head of the anti-Covid staff of the Trump administration (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsoG7pZifTw ).

7- On these issues raised by the anti-Covid measures the philosopher Giorgio Agamben has intervened on several occasions. He, too, has not been spared by the conformist uproar. There follow some examples:

https://www.quodlibet.it/giorgio-agamben-una-domanda (14 April)

https://www.quodlibet.it/giorgio-agamben-nuove-riflessioni (22 April)

https://www.quodlibet.it/giorgio-agamben-biosicurezza (15 May)




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