Columns

You are here

Dying for Dollars: Capitalism is a death cult

By: 
Left JAB by John Bell

September 1, 2020

“Capitalism tends to destroy its two sources of wealth: nature and human beings.”

It would be nice is this popular quote attributed to Karl Marx was accurate, but he never said it. What he actually said, in Volume 1 of Capital, was:

“Capitalist production, therefore, only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth – the soil and the worker.”

Which means basically the same thing. Marx’s analysis of capitalism exposed its inner contradictions, its fatal flaws. Capitalism cannot produce without destroying. The more it produces the greater the destruction. No more profound proof of Marx’s hypothesis exists than the two defining features of our age:

First, the obscene chasm of between a tiny handful of rulers whose wealth and power would make the pharaohs blush, and a great mass of workers ground down by poverty, misery and despair.

So far in 2020, as millions of workers around the world barely keep going through the pandemic related depression, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk alone have added $115 billion to their hoards.  Yet in what claims to be the greatest and richest nation on earth, some 30 million US workers are unemployed, and an estimated 19 to 23 million people face eviction from their homes

The effects of the crisis are worst among Black and POC communities. “My clients are overwhelmingly single black women with children,” said one South Carolina tenant advocate. “My client today was and my client yesterday was. And all of my clients last week were single black females with children.”

One study reveals that 11% of US adults contemplated suicide in June. 

The second proof of capitalism’s intrinsically destructive force is climate change.

Unprecedented storms, collapsing polar ice shelves, record forest fires and deadly heat waves have plagued the globe in 2020. They haven’t got the headlines and attention they deserve, crowded out by stories about COVID-19, economic collapse, and inspiring explosions of resistance to police violence and racism.

There is no question that climate change poses an existential threat to human society that makes the disruptions caused by the pandemic pale in comparison. There is no question that climate change is caused by burning fossil fuels to power capitalism’s growth and production. And there is no question that, according to capitalism’s logic, profiting from the continued use of fossil fuel is more important than the lives and health of human beings, and the very natural world that sustains us.

Where decent human beings say: “You can’t put a value on human life”; capitalism says: “Hold my crystal glass of 1945 Domaine de la Romanee-Conti Romanee-Conti ($558,000 per bottle).”

Dying for Dollars

Everything that Marx said about capitalism’s inability to avoid its own drive to destruction is brought into sharp focus by the COVID-19 emergency.  Caught off guard, most governments complied with public health advice and shut down their economies, designed around bringing large numbers of people together for production and – in cases of some industries like transportation – consumption.

In countries like Canada the shutdown was somewhat successful. Numbers of COVID cases and mortality fell to “acceptable” levels. And as soon as that happened, business started to push for reopening. They had lost several months’ production, even if a portion of their lost profits was underwritten by government handouts. Enough was enough.

A prerequisite for getting industry up and producing was reopening schools.

Under capitalism, education is a contradictory thing. The system, especially when it was young and expanding, need a large educated cadre. But at the same time schools served an ideological function: to bind the next generation of workers to the status quo; to inculcate individualism and competition over cooperation and social learning; and to drum work discipline into kids. 

As capitalism ages and expansion is no longer easy, the system must resort to intensifying the exploitation of things already under its control. So education, once viewed as a social benefit and “free” has become a cash cow. Private schools serve the elite, tuition for college and university skyrockets and student debt becomes a life-long burden and a bonanza for the banks. For working class families, public schools decline as education is relentlessly defunded.

The haste and dishonesty surrounding the push to reopen schools at any cost, in the midst of a pandemic that is only in abeyance, reveals the truth about education’s place in Canada in 2020: its primary function is to warehouse the children of workers while their parents labour in precarious jobs.

Children will get sick. Their mortality rate might be low initially but they will act as “superspreaders”, infecting family members, education workers and anyone else they contact. And once rare conditions are becoming common thanks to COVID. Children will die. 

Our rulers don’t care: our health takes a back seat to their profits.

In Quebec, premier Francois Legault has announced that even if there is a second wave of infections daycares will remain open.

In Ontario, Doug Ford makes reassuring speeches but won’t supply any new money to allow for social distancing, more teachers and smaller class size, absolute prerequisites for a safe reopening. But there is $25 million for new OPP cops and plans to build new prisons.

In Alberta, just days before school reopening, Jason Kenney’s government sent news to teachers that social distancing will not happen and masks will not be required. This will translate directly to sick kids and dead teachers.

But it isn’t all bad. Estate planning business LegalWills is offering Ontario teachers free wills before they return to class. Libertarians are always going on about how capitalism is based on free will, but I had no idea this is what they meant.

Those hellbent on the pursuit of profit are willing to grind down your life to misery, and ruin the natural world to do it. And now they show themselves willing and able to kill your children. If that isn’t living proof that capitalism is a death cult, I don’t know what is.

Section: