The Fortress World: After the Pandemic, Which Future?

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2147 ... July 16, 2020

The Fortress World: After the Pandemic, Which Future?

Shalmali Guttal

We were already on the way to variations of Fortress World before COVID-19: right-wing, authoritarian/fascist regimes have been able to capture political power riding on the immiseration, anxieties, and frustration resulting from global capitalism and corporate globalization, while progressive political-societal forces have been unable to unite resistance and create spaces for alternative systems to flourish.

COVID-19 has made visible the stark realities of inequality across the world. Class and social privilege, race/ethnicity, gender, occupation, and age determine who are most vulnerable to the virus and who suffer the worst impacts of the pandemic, including the economic, social, and political ramifications of the measures taken by many governments to contain the disease. While heredity is important, pre-existing health conditions of co-morbidity also exist caused and exacerbated by entrenched inequalities, which determine work conditions and environments, as well as access to good-quality healthcare, diet, and facilities to prevent disease -- e.g., regular water supply, sanitation, housing that allows physical distancing/quarantine, personal protective equipment (PPE), etc.
Inequalities also determine whose interests shape the responses to the pandemic. The most common response by many governments has been to impose lockdowns that severely restrict the movement of people and goods, curtail service provision, and practically halt economic activity, including food production, storage, and distribution, but without the required testing, tracing, and treatment, and little or no support for those who do not have homes where they can distance (or even shelter from weather and pollution) and for whom the loss of daily income leads to hunger. Across Asia, millions of informal sector, agricultural, and construction workers are stranded without incomes, shelter, food, water, and healthcare. Restrictions on movement, closure of local markets, absence of credit, etc., have hit small-scale food producers hard, setting the stage for food shortages and food price hikes.

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