The novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) is devastating the lives, cultures, mass psychologies, and economies of countries around the world. Here, I will not reproduce the damages it has inflicted in various countries. The news media are overflowing with such information. In this article, I will briefly outline the developing politico-economic effects, crises, and consequences of this pandemic.
Even though its economic damages are being compared to those of the world wars, the macro-level politico-economic and other consequences of its rapidly developing severe multidimensional crises remain uninvestigated in the historical light of the crises that followed during and after the world wars. The comparison with world wars is more than analogous. Almost all the countries of the world have been invaded by this infectious agent that produces almost unlimited copies of itself in the human, and possibly also in other animals, bodies, which are then transmitted in various ways to others in the vicinity. It has already infected more than a million people globally. This war, in which the whole mankind is fighting against the innumerable and constantly multiplying virus particles, is incomparably more widespread than the two world wars. It is very likely that it may have already created its diverse forms epigenetically and/or through mutations. It may also be able to develop resistance to any medications or vaccines that are developed in the future. Barring some miracles or measures that are effective for its mass control, reduction, and elimination, it is going to be a long term pandemic, which will devastate the public health, economies, and ways of life, massively.
During and after the First World War, as a result of such crises, the first socialist revolution was successful in Russia, the largest country in the world, followed by the Irish War of Independence, Egyptian Revolution of 1919, breakup of the Ottoman Empire, and attempts at socialist revolutions in Germany, Italy, and Hungary, among others.
As direct or indirect results of the Second World War, and the crises that ensued, numerous colonized countries gained independence, and there were socialist revolutions in many countries of Eastern Europe, creating the socialist bloc of countries. Philippines gained its independence from the brutal US occupation and colonialism, shortly after the end of the Second World War, in 1946. The complex and long struggle for the socialist revolution in China, the most populous country in the world, also came to an end during that period, with the victory of socialist forces. Even though US intervention prevented such revolution in Korea as a whole, it was successful in North Korea—which was subjected to great devastations by vast American bombardments and other military operations—causing the division of Korea into two countries. Later, socialism oriented revolutions took place in Egypt, Iraq, Algeria, and Libya, among others. There was an upsurge of national liberation movements throughout the world and numerous countries were able to free themselves from the yoke of western imperialism and colonialism.
All of these were huge macro-level multidimensional changes. In the socialist countries, these were based on the politico-economic change of the replacement of the political power of the capitalist class and its allies with that of the working class and its allies. Hence, from the great devastations, ashes, and crises of the Second World War, there emerged many societies that freed themselves from violence of economic and other forms of injustices of the capitalist and feudal systems, and numerous societies that freed themselves from the yoke of foreign colonialism and exploitation and domination of their natural and human resources. Still others brought about internal revolutions, freeing themselves from the rule of local agents and puppets of foreign imperialism, and paving the way for non-capitalist development.
Although both world wars were extremely destructive in numerous ways, including economically and the loss of human lives—it has been estimated that more people were killed in these two wars than all the wars throughout history—enormous new forests of freedom and social justice also grew out of their ashes.
Coronavirus-pandemic-produced economic, political, cultural, and mass psychological crises are developing throughout the entire world, leading to the development of revolutionary situations. There are numerous reports and studies by the UN and various other organizations that document the severe economic and other damages being inflicted by the pandemic in various countries. These are not being cited here, as the main focus of this article is conceptual and theoretical, based upon the available empirical and statistical information, which can be accessed readily on the Internet. The so-called Third World or developing countries are being hardest hit and will experience the worst of such crises. In many of them, the revolutionary situations will mature sooner than the others. However, for these to lead to actual social revolutions, radical changes in the mass subjectivity, as well as its mobilization by a vanguard revolutionary political organization will be essential. If initially such revolutions succeed in some countries, then it is very likely that these will be followed by others. These may even enlighten and wake up the complacent and somnambulist working classes and masses in the developed capitalist countries, in which the state–monopoly capitalism has had a relatively long history of development, consolidation, and domination, the most exceptional being that in the USA. Americans, in general, like to think of the US and themselves as exceptional, in the sense that they are superior to others. However, as far as the politico-economic and philosophical consciousness and mass psychology are concerned, they are indeed exceptional in the negative sense, most disinformed, brain-washed, self-righteous in ignorance and arrogance, and backward. Through much of their history, they supported their state-monopoly capitalist ruling classes in repressing all the progressive social movements for radical changes, domestically as well as internationally, for example Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), Western Federation of Miners (WFM), Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), and Communist party, domestically, and mass revolutionary and national liberation movements globally, as well as overthrow of nationalist and progressive regimes, and their replacement by comprador puppet regimes, throughout the world. Not only the American ruling classes, but also the American society as a whole, have been living on the lands, stolen from the Native Americans, after their genocide, and developed by the slave labor of Africans—kidnapped and uprooted from their native countries- and then creating a Great Ocean of Blood, Injustice, and Inequality, throughout the world. They have been feasting on the shores of that ocean. Historically, objectively, and subjectively, there is very little reason to be optimistic about the potential progressive and humanistic role and future of such society. To the contrary, under extreme crises conditions, such a society is likely to switch to fascism. This is a harsh but truthful and factual critique of the history of American society. Also, this is not to deny that there have been, and are, innumerable Americans, who have struggled, and continue to struggle, against some of the most blatant domestic and international evils, injustices, and violence of the rulers and their followers. However, it is logically and factually valid to focus on and describe the historical nature of the society as a whole, and actual historical and factual outcomes, including those of the internal struggles. The essence of these outcomes is that all the domestic and international evils and injustices of this society have gotten much worse, reflected, among other things, in the current Trump administration, and its policies and actions.
Whether the crises caused by the pandemic will develop into revolutionary situations will depend upon the length and severity of the pandemic, as well as the effectiveness of the control measures in various countries. Revolutionary situations can develop during or after the pandemic is over. In case of prolonged durations, these may develop during the pandemic, while in shorter durations, these are likely to develop after the pandemic, when the full extent and effects of structural economic and other damages become clear and are suffered by large numbers of people. Some of the major structural damages of the pandemic may be very difficult to repair, even in the relatively rich countries, which may require a long time to restore conditions to pre-pandemic levels, if at all. However, the rich countries, like the US, have more resources available to try to prevent social unrests and conflicts from developing or for controlling them. But, if the crises get too prolonged, their ability to do that will be eroded. This situation will be incomparably worse in the poor countries, many of which are already suffering severe economic, political, and social crises, are buried under external and internal debts, and are unable to meet the basic needs of the masses for food, housing, clothing, and healthcare, even minimally. Any further deterioration of conditions is very likely to push the masses over the edge, and lead to the development of revolutionary situations. However, the development of revolutionary situations does not mean that these will automatically lead to revolutions. For that, as mentioned above, radical changes in the mass subjectivity, as well as its mobilization by a vanguard revolutionary political organization will be essential.
Here, we must learn from the genius of revolutionary dynamics, V. I. Lenin, who had made thorough studies of various revolutions in history, and extracted their essence.
A social revolution means a radical upheaval in all the spheres of society’s life in which a transition is realized from one socioeconomic formation to another and more progressive one. The revolution is a motive force of social progress. It is both destruction and creativity; it opens singers and songs. The deepest cause of social revolutions is a conflict between productive forces and relations of production.
The fact that social revolutions are not accidental, that they are law-governed phenomena brought about by the development of production as historical necessities, does not mean that they occur automatically. Objective and subjective premises are necessary for a revolution to take place. Irreconcilable contradictions in the mode of production manifest themselves in the fierce struggle between progressive and reactionary classes. Class struggle is the political basis of a revolution. The subjective form of the expression of this struggle is conflict of class interests, aspirations and ideas. A social revolution is the highest form of the class struggle of the oppressed. The ensemble of objective conditions leading to society’s economic and political crisis creates a revolutionary situation characterized by the following features: it is a situation:
“(I) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the ‘upper classes’, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for ‘the lower classes not to want’ to live in the old way; it is also necessary that ‘the upper classes should be unable’ to live in the old way; (II) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (III) when … there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in ‘peace time’, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the ‘upper classes’ themselves into independent historical action (1).”
It is not every revolutionary situation that leads to a revolution. Revolutions only flare up when subjective conditions are added to the objective ones. The subjective factor includes the will to fight, a skillful organization of this fight, the consciousness of the fighters, a clear understanding of the goals and tasks of the struggle, and the resolution of the fighting classes to wage the battle to the end. Given all the necessary objective premises, the subjective factor becomes decisive: the old government will not fall if it is not made to fall. The motive forces of the revolution are those social groups and classes which have a vested interest in the breakdown of the old order and in establishing the new one, and which carry out the revolution. During relatively peaceful periods, popular masses are, as it were, behind the scenes of politics or in a state of historical slumber, whereas revolutionary events push the people onto the proscenium of world history as they create the new order. The fundamental question of any revolution is the question of state power. When the fire of the revolution flares up, it engulfs first of all the principal defender of the old world- the state. Taking political power in their hands, the classes carrying out the revolution reorganize society’s entire socio-political mechanism: the new organs of the revolution are born in its own fire. The seizure of power by the revolutionary forces becomes an act of political revolution. That is the revolution in the narrow sense. The type of social revolution is determined by the socio-political contradictions which it resolves, the social system it overthrows and the system it creates anew. These aspects cover the conception of revolution in the broad sense- as society’s transition from one qualitative state to another (e.g. from slave-owning to feudalism, and from feudalism to capitalism), i.e. as ascendance to the next historically determined stage of its development. A special type of revolution are those which involve a given individual sphere of social life (e.g. scientific, technological, or cultural revolutions).
The highest type of revolution is the socialist revolution which has the interests of the working people as its aim. As distinct from the previous social revolutions restricting themselves to changes in political power and to aligning it with the new economic relations already established, the socialist revolution is characterized above all by the creative element- the assertion of socialist relations of production. The socialist revolution, as no other type of upheaval, presupposes a long period of profound transformations of all the aspects of social being: it is by no means a one-time act of the overthrow of old political power and establishment of the new one.
Lenin had also perfected his knowledge of the dialectical logic and dialectical and historical materialism. His following insight is very relevant to the destruction and betrayal of socialism and restoration of capitalism in the former socialist countries:
“It is undialectical, unscientific and theoretically wrong to regard the course of world history as smooth and always in a forward direction, without occasional gigantic leaps back (2).”
In the following passage, Marx had pointed out the contradictory and ruthless essence of “progress” under capitalism:
“The new-fangled sources of wealth, by some strange weird spell, are turned into sources of want. The victories of art seem bought by the loss of character. … Even the pure light of science seems unable to shine but on the dark background of ignorance. The pagan idol refuses to drink nectar from anything but the skulls of the dead (3).”
A study, conducted at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Health Alliance, had found that 45,000 people die annually in the US because of not having health insurance (4). This is 15 times more than the less than 3000 killed in the 9/11/2001 attacks.
Steffie Woolhandler, study co-author, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance, noted:
“Historically, every other developed nation has achieved universal health care through some form of nonprofit national health insurance. Our failure to do so means that all Americans pay higher health care costs, and 45,000 pay with their lives.”
“The Institute of Medicine, using older studies, estimated that one American dies every 30 minutes from lack of health insurance,” remarked David Himmelstein, study co-author, associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, and a primary care physician at Cambridge Health Alliance. “Even this grim figure is an underestimate — now one dies every 12 minutes.”
Coronavirus pandemic has so far killed around 10,000 Americans and 70,000 people globally. Over the years, lack of health insurance in the US has killed incomparably more Americans than the pandemic.
1. V.I. Lenin, “The Collapse of the Second International”, Collected Works, Vol. 21, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 974, pp. 213-14
2. V.I. Lenin, “The Junius Pamphlet”, Collected Works, Vol. 22, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977, p. 310
3. K. Marx, “Speech at the Anniversary of The People’s Paper Delivered in London, April 14, 1856”, in: K. Marx, F. Engels, Collected Works, Vol. 14, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980, pp. 655-56.
Dr. Fazal Rahman is an interdisciplinary researcher and writer, with background in many areas of biological and social sciences. He has lived and worked in many countries, like Pakistan, Brazil, USA, Lebanon, and Zambia, as a scientist and head of research and development programs and centers. He has done in-depth and extensive studies on Marxism, Leninism, phenomenology, existentialism, political economy of capitalism and socialism, political economy of US and former USSR, technocracy, psychology, mass psychology, and genetics, etc.
from the archives: