Why Capitalism Cant Cure Global Pandemics

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2090 ... May 14, 2020

Why Capitalism Can’t Cure Global Pandemics

Prabir Purkayastha

We frequently hear that COVID-19 is the worst pandemic since the influenza of 1918. It is forgotten that another pandemic known as "the third plague" (because it was "the third major bubonic plague outbreak to affect European society") killed millions from the 1890s to the 1950s in Asia’s southern, southeastern, and eastern regions, continuing well after the 1918 flu was over. It killed an estimated 10 million in India alone.

So why is this forgotten when we talk about pandemics today? The answer is the same reason behind the collective amnesia in wealthy nations on a whole host of diseases that still plague the world -- diseases that Peter Hotez, a molecular biologist, wrote about in his book Forgotten People, Forgotten Diseases. (The World Health Organization [WHO] gives them the neutral term "neglected tropical diseases.")

The question is who has forgotten such diseases. Certainly not the 65 per cent of people who are threatened by tuberculosis, malaria, dengue, yellow fever, and the other "forgotten" diseases... Hotez lists.

It is the well-off countries who believed that infectious diseases did not concern them anymore. They were "forgotten" by the rich, as they believed they could keep such diseases outside their borders. The third plague was almost entirely restricted to the colonized world, leaving the colonialists in the comfortable belief that they had now conquered the infectious diseases that only affected dirty, flea-ridden, rat-infested parts of the world.

The COVID-19 pandemic proves that diseases can strike back, and we are always only one mutation away from a new infectious disease emerging.

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