The Political Economy of Covid-19
Copyright 2020 Kees van der Pijl
That the new corona virus was recognised first in China in late 2019 only highlights that we are not looking at a grand plan hatched by the West, but at an opportunity seized upon to advance an agenda, of which some elements had been gestating, others were improvised later. Indeed the beginning epidemic in Wuhan and the surrounding Hubei province, to which the Chinese government responded with draconian measures that effectively stopped the spread but also all social activity, was not immediately replicated outside China. Britain and the United States were even among the last to go into lockdown. However, the world-wide standstill of normal life, which is having devastating consequences for hundreds of millions and opens up the prospect of a regimented society for many more, reveals how one after another, governments (not all) saw an opportunity to solve other issues by falling into line with ‘battling the pandemic’.Framing health and other issues as questions of ‘security’ has been analysed as a way of bolstering state power in times of crisis (Elbe 2009: 15), and that is clearly at play in this case too. The security at stake is the stability of the existing order, a dangerously lopsided, oligarchic capitalism in terminal decline. In the current Covid-19 emergency, a specific factor is the attempt by the established Atlantic ruling class to oust Donald Trump, the first real outsider having won the presidency of the United States in modern times (De Graaff and Van Apeldoorn 2019).
I will first address the issue of states of emergency and compare the views of John Locke, the founding ideologue of liberalism, with those of Carl Schmitt, who was preoccupied with the state of exception when Germany passed through a short-lived liberal episode in the aftermath of World War I. Because Schmitt theorised a situation of an endangered liberalism, his views are again topical today. With 9/11 a state of emergency was imposed based on the fear of terrorism, but after two decades of war in the Middle East and North Africa, its cogency began to wane and the new Cold War with Russia only compensated the loss to some extent. The virus scare is turning out to be far more effective in freezing society into a state of emergency again although countries like Sweden, Belarus or Japan, which did not resort to a comprehensive lockdown, have no different levels of cases or fatalities than countries that came to a complete standstill. It looks as if the current counterattack against ‘populism’ (both actual popular movements from below and office-holders like Trump helped to power by them) is successfully applying an idea articulated by Michel Foucault in the 1970s, that sovereignty can also be asserted at the level of humanity’s relationship with nature, as global governance..
Secondly, I address the process of class formation through which a bloc of forces executing this radical turn was constituted. Once the health emergency opportunity presented itself, the pharmaceutical industry was obviously first in line to defend, not just a capitalist response, but also its specific, medication-oriented approach to health prevalent in the West. Bill Gates, the Microsoft founder and financier of Obama’s reelection in 2012, though his foundation and the World Health Organisation in which he wields huge influence, had long called for pandemic preparedness. Their dress rehearsals more than the actual Covid-19 crisis determined the response, to which the other IT giants, high finance, and the intelligence/surveillance world added their weight to bolster the anti-’populist’, authoritarian drive. A paralysed society will not resist the shock-like acceleration of the concentration of capital in fewer hands (by sacrificing the small and middle-sized business) either.
Thirdly, I address how the new virus affected relations between the United States and China. After the SARS epidemic in 2002-3, Washington reached out to China (where that epidemic had its origin) to jointly investigate its consequences. Chinese researchers were funded and hosted (also by Canada). However, in 2019, serious friction became apparent.The break-up of the collaboration has also laid bare the deep rift between the declining and the ascendant world power, even though many links remain. The fact that the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine,the French virologist Luc Montagnier, has established that SARS-CoV-2 was created in a laboratory, requires we investigate this closely.
This takes us to the fourth aspect, the role of biological warfare preparation. The United States especially maintains a massive apparatus of laboratories for this purpose both at home and along the frontiers of Russia, China, and tropical Africa. In light of the claim that a laboratory developed the virus, the closure of the main US bio-warfare facility at Fort Detrick in Maryland and the subsequent participation of a US team in the World Military Games also in Wuhan, deserves to be looked at as an alternative explanation too—especially in light of evidence of an earlier outbreak in the US.
1. Suspending the Liberal Constitution under the State of Emergency
The standard reflex to major disasters in the United States and the larger West since at least 9/11 has been to reinforce state emergency powers. It is not different in the current Covid-19 epidemic. As ZeroHedge reported, ‘In a sweeping power grab, the [US] Department of Justice has asked Congress for the ability to go directly to chief judges in order to detain people indefinitely without trial during emergencies’. It cites the Politico website which reviewed documents detailing the DoJ’s requests to lawmakers on this and a host of related topics (Durden 2020). It was not different after 9/11, when the Patriot Act was adopted without proper discussion after anthrax letters had been sent to two US Senators who might have held up its passage.
Other countries have adopted broadly identical measures, with the liberal West, the capitalist heartland of the global political economy, leading the way. Normally we do not associate this part of the world with authoritarian intervention, but at least from the latter part of World War II, a repressive infrastructure, usually referred to as the ‘Deep State’, has backed up the power of the ruling classes here as well. Under this heading elements in the military, the intelligence services, and the police, aligned with CEOs and actual owners of capital active in national and transnational planning groups such as New America, the Bilderberg Conferences, or the World Economic Forum, have historically intervened when the stability of the existing order was under threat (see Scott 2015). In the Cold War, the ‘Gladio’ network in NATO countries was an example. Normally held in reserve, it surfaced (although the Italian name was only made public in 1991) in the ‘Strategy of Tension’ in the 1970s to derail the possibility of Communist government participation in Italy. It was only with the attacks of September 11, 2001, that a state of emergency was imposed on the West at large and this has continued, invoking a series of threats (terrorism, ‘Russian’ fake news and electoral manipulation and Covid-19 are the key landmarks) to the present day. Let me briefly review the relationship between the original liberal constitution and the provisions for its suspension.
The Lockean State/Society Complex
The state/society-complex in which social power determines the state rather than vice versa, emerged at the close of the English Civil War that with a few pauses was fought from 1642 to its conclusion in 1688. In the ‘Glorious Revolution’ of that year the Dutch intervened on the side of the liberals on the British Isles and the North American colonies. John Locke, the councillor of the Whig lords welcoming the regime change, provided his patrons with a comprehensive political doctrine in Two Treatises of Government (Locke 1965). Key to his insights was that the state, as the coercive force in the background, serves the interests of property-owning society regulated by law, which is sovereign. This stood in direct contrast to the view of Thomas Hobbes, who in the Leviathan of 1651 had argued the opposite: the state must impose itself directly and permanently to avoid a war of all against all. But then, the civil war had not been finally decided when Hobbes wrote (in exile).
Though Locke took an optimistic view of the self-regulating capacity of liberal society he did refer to the possibility that the state would impose itself in an emergency. ‘‘Tis fit that the Laws themselves should in some Cases give way to the Executive Power’, he noted in Second Treatise. Behind and above ‘the laws’ there is another social force, which alone enjoys what Locke calls a ‘Prerogative [which] is nothing but the Power of doing public good without a Rule’ (Locke 1965: 421 and 425, respectively). The normal laws were already harsh enough: by the time of the industrial revolution hundreds of different crimes were punishable by death, most related to infractions of property rights (Losurdo 2013: 92). In the North American colonies it was not different. Here slavery added to the cruelty of everyday life until long after Abolition.
On both sides of the Atlantic, the Lockean concept, complete with with the safety 5 valve of the state of emergency, was elaborated into a novel form of political life in the early 18th century. In the aftermath of defeating absolutist France, the main contender for power against the liberal Anglo-Dutch coalition, a ‘public opinion’ crystallised in newspapers, café society, and other venues and channels. Here patrons debated the issues of the day, albeit always on the basis of a silent agreement that King and Country were given. Thus a fluid alternation of government and opposition (always ‘his majesty’s most loyal opposition’) became possible, no longer absolutist dynastic succession or the shocklike changes of power as in France or elsewhere (see my 2014: 18-23 for a more elaborate discussion and sources).
Crisis and the State of Exception
France, the country of Louis XIV (‘L’état c’est moi’) and after the French Revolution, of Napoleon, would retain many characteristics of its contender state experience until well after the world wars in which it sided with the Anglo-American, Lockean heartland. By then, a new contender challenging liberal hegemony had arisen, Germany. Along with lesser European contenders such as Italy and Austria-Hungary, and Japan in Asia, these states all to different degrees relied on a directive state mobilising their societies from above, as France had done before. When Germany after the defeat in World War I adopted a liberal constitution under the Weimar Republic, the safety valve referred to by Locke proved insufficient and the type of fluid government alternation as in Anglo- America, out of reach. In 1918-’24, the country even seemed on the brink of socialist revolution.
In the circumstances, Carl Schmitt, the ultra-conservative legal scholar wary of the liberalism of the new republic, a militant Catholic and anti-Semite, theorised the sovereign state entirely from the vantage point of the ability to impose a state of emergency. Schmitt defines sovereignty in his Political Theology of 1922 as vested in ‘he who decides on the [state of] exception’ (Schmitt 2005: 5). In a way, this was still Locke’s ‘prerogative’, but after the emergency clause of the Weimar constitution had been activated in 1930 to deal with the onset of the Great Depression, Schmitt asked whether a constitutionally grounded emergency would not in the end fall short of breaking the deadlock between the classes. In The Guardian of the Constitution he asks how the integrity of society will be maintained in a situation in which none of the classes can 6 prevail, and in which not just legality, but the constitution itself becomes unstable. In such an existential crisis, the president of the republic, on account of his popular mandate, must ‘assert the unity of the people as a political totality against the plurality of social and economic power groups and articulate [its] political will directly’ (Schmitt 1996: 159).
Only a month after Hitler’s investiture as Chancellor by President Hindenburg that ended the liberal interlude in January 1933, the Nazis consolidated their power through a false flag operation, the Reichstag fire (ascribed to the Communists). The following year the SS massacred the leadership of the SA brown-shirts in the ‘night of the long knives’ to neutralise the working class wing of the Nazi movement. Schmitt, whose patron, General Schleicher, was also murdered, produced a hasty endorsement of the new terror regime in the spirit of The Guardian of the Constitution: ‘Justice flows from the institution of the Fu?hrer’, he now claimed. ‘In the supreme emergency, the supreme law is vindicated and manifests itself as the highest degree of judicially vengeful realisation of this law. All law originates in the right to life of a people’ (Schmitt 1989: 329, emphasis added).
The Biopolitical Predicament and the Global Governance Perspective
The state of emergency that is being kept in reserve permanently through the COG system in the United States and which actually was set at hair-trigger level right before Trump’s assumption of the presidency, is currently being activated on account of the Covid-19 epidemic. This is not the place to analyse at length the forces ranged against the president, exploiting his erratic behaviour and his lack of a constituency in the established ruling class. It is enough to see that the intelligence services, Wall Street and the large Internet monopolies, along with the Democratic Party establishment and the mainstream media, as well as key forces in NATO Europe, are all lined up against the Trump presidency. The hardening of the Democratic Party stance led, inter alia, to the formation of the Alliance for Securing Democracy, a transatlantic initiative under the umbrella of the German Marshall Fund, led by a former foreign policy advisor to Hillary Clinton side by side with an avowed neo-conservative (Greenwald 2017; ASD 2020).
In 2010 the US Supreme Court in the Citizens United case ruled that corporations are entitled to free speech as much as individual citizens. This enabled a quantum leap in election campaign funding in the form of ‘Super-PACs’ (Political Action Committees). The change brought various billionaires such as the Koch brothers, casino mogul Adelman, and others directly into the political arena, indeed so directly that their personal preferences cancelled each other out and Obama was able to mobilise his own Super-PAC with the help of Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. This helped him getting re-elected in 2012 (Mayer 2016: 317-8, 320).
Gates thus positioned himself at the heart of the Democratic Party power bloc. Indeed the Internet monopolies—besides Microsoft, notably, Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon (whose owner Jeff Bezos also owns the Washington Post), are an important interface between the intelligence services, finance, and the two political parties. The readiness of the IT giants to rush to provide states with surveillance possibilities to monitor possible carriers of the SARS CoV-2 virus (and their other activities of course) is not new. They form part of a single overarching surveillance and power structure with the national security state and the large financial houses, a situation formalised around the 14 time of the financial collapse of 2007-8.
The diagram below depicts the resulting axis of surveillance capital linked to the US national security state. All the top ten finance houses hold large stakes in the big five Internet companies; only UBS has not invested in Amazon and Bank of America/Merrill Lynch has no holdings of Amazon or Microsoft stock. Note that the financial giants include Barclays, Allianz and UBS (and French AXA just outside the top-10), so we are looking at an Atlantic network, not just a US one.
Since the top ten finance companies are also investors in the three large US military producers, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing (Phillips 2018: 228-9), finance, IT/intel and US/NATO defence-industrial power are densely interconnected at the top. From day 1, Trump found this complex of forces ranged against him, acting through the Democratic Party establishment and the mainstream media. This, then, is the Atlantic ruling class that has occupied the commanding heights practically without interruption in Anglo-America, drawing Western Europe into its orbit after 1944-5 (see my 1984 and Carroll 2010).
Throughout, different class fractions in the Atlantic force-field were able to impose their preferences on the others. Thus under Bush Jr, the Neo-Con ‘Project for a New American Century’ succeeded in swinging the entire Atlantic bloc behind a long-term strategy of fighting Israel’s enemies in the Middle East and North Africa; Obama then changed tack from the ‘War on Terror’ to the new Cold War with Russia (and the ‘Asia 15 pivot’ against China). When Hilary Clinton, the candidate of the mainstream Atlantic ruling class, failed to get elected in 2016, frustration was expressed by the attempt to turn the Russia scare against Trump. Indeed Trump represents a complete break with the mainstream Atlantic ruling class; not a single figure in his foreign policy team is a participant in the Bilderberg and Trilateral Commission networks that were central in the previous three administrations, both Republican and Democrat, or to the equally nodal points of the Aspen Institute or Atlantic Council (De Graaff and Van Apeldoorn 2019: 19- 20).
It is my thesis that with Trump’s re-election in the balance in November 2020, the anti- Trump forces, apparently disarmed in the wake of the impeachment debacle, have seized on the Covid-19 epidemic for a second chance. In the circumstances Bill Gates, the saviour of Obama in 2012 after Citizens United had turned US elections into straightforward oligarchic competition, was in a position to lead the process of class formation by which a particular fraction of capital guides the regrouping of the capitalist class as a whole behind a new concept of control (Bode 2019). In this case, by directing the Big Pharma/World Health Organisation response to the epidemic and turn his longstanding views on health issues into a salvage operation for the Atlantic ruling class in its entirety (including Macron and his supporters in France and the US, the pro-EU forces in the UK and Italy, and so on).
The Gates Foundation and the Universal Vaccination Project
Ever since the founder of the Rockefeller dynasty in the late 19th century followed the advice of his vicar to move a large part of his wealth out of reach from the taxman and into a charitable foundation, corporate dynasties have exercised their power by having these charities pursue their private visions of society. Unhindered by democratic deliberation or state control, this has allowed the capitalist dynasts to exercise real class power. Health has been a key concern of the $52 billion Gates Foundation (and of the Rockefeller Foundation for that matter) and Bill Gates has pursued his private views on a grand scale as a result. One of his preoccupations is to raise sanitary and health conditions worldwide to try and stem the growth of the Earth’s population by 10 to 15 percent from the expected maximum; another is the propagation of genetically modified seeds, a perspective he shares with Obama (Parry 2020; cf. Louv 2012: 22-4).
The Gates Foundation is one of the largest benefactors of the World Health Organization, allowing these views to gain even more global traction. The WHO was among the functional bodies of the UN system that in the 1980s and 90s came under attack from the Reagan and Thatcher governments; as a result the UN ended up being placed under the tutelage of transnational capital through the so-called Global Compact. The WHO was targeted in particular by the large US tobacco companies. With the help of nominally independent academics and journalists publishing ‘expert’ articles, the tobacco interests were able to discredit the WHO as a ‘socialist’ bulwark (Paul 2001: 107-8). Starved of contributions, the WHO was brought into a position of financial dependence on corporate interests and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was among the sources of funding making up for the shortfall. From 2000 it gave $ 2.5 billion to the WHO (around 5 percent of its endowment of $ 52 billion—Frei 2020; figure to 2017).
Now to be able to direct a process of class formation towards a new configuration of forces, it is not enough to have a stake in the world health infrastructure. Gates is a class conscious advocate of the system as such, viewing his and the Gates Foundation’s mandate as ‘creative capitalism’ or ‘catalytic philanthropy’. The Foundation must leverage ‘all the tools of capitalism to connect the promise of philanthropy with the power of private enterprise’ (cited in Schwab 2020). This might well have served as the motto of the UN Global Compact and it also extends to the WHO. Among beneficiaries of the $2 billion in tax-deductible charitable donations by the Gates Foundation to private companies are drug giant GlaxoSmithKline and others tasked with developing new drugs, improving sanitation in the developing world, and the like. Besides Glaxo, the Gates Foundation also donates to, and owns stock and bonds of, other major pharmaceutical companies such as Merck (the monopoly producer of measles vaccine), as well as Sanofi (France) and Novartis (Switzerland). In addition, the Foundation has given money to pressure groups such as the Drug Information Association (directed by Big Pharma) and the International Life Sciences Institute (funded by Big Agriculture) (Schwab 2020). It also subsidises national health institutes, e.g. the Dutch RIVM.
Because of his close affinity with big pharmaceutical companies, both as a donor and an investor, Gates has effectively stood in the way of making drugs affordable for poor people and supported the company’s intellectual property rights. Yet in public speeches in 2013 and ‘14, Gates boasted of the lives his Foundation was saving—in one speech he said 10 million, in another 6 million—through ‘partnerships with pharmaceutical 17 companies’ (cited in Schwab 2020).
Pandemic preparation is key in Gates’ thinking, and for obvious reasons it is steeped in the Western medication philosophy in combination with the interests of Big Pharma: testing, vaccination, treatment. In 2010, a ‘Global Vaccine Action Plan’ was launched that saw the Gates Foundation team up with the WHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, was prominent in the Leadership Team of this project alongside Anthony Lake, Executive Director for UNICEF; Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO; Joy Phumaphi, Chair of the International Advisory Committee and Executive Secretary, African Leaders Malaria Alliance; and Tachi Yamada, President of Global Health at the Gates Foundation (FortRuss 2020).
In 2015 Gates was again one of the speakers at the Vancouver TED conference, where he spoke about the Ebola crisis in West Africa. He observed that we are not prepared for the next epidemic. ‘If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war—not missiles, but microbes’, he warned (cited in Sault 2020). What was needed according to Gates, is a system to mobilise hundreds of thousands of health workers at short notice, and of course, tests, vaccines, and treatments, the stock in trade of Big Pharma and hospitals.
In 2018, on the occasion of the hundredth anniversary of the Spanish Flu, the World Economic Forum celebrated the coming together of a number of institutions committed to fighting a pandemic it was certain to arrive but which it claimed the world was badly prepared for (not least because of the slashing of public health expenditure under austerity policies propagated by the same WEF, one would think). Yet the WEF statement (World Economic Forum n.d.) claimed that ‘with increasing trade, travel, population density, human displacement, migration and deforestation … as well as climate change, a new era in the risk of epidemics has begun’. Luckily pharmaceutical industry was making great strides, as ‘revolutionary new biotechnologies promise miraculous advances’. Certainly the risks involved are also momentous, but given that a major flu pandemic alone would cost the world economy half a trillion dollars, it was time to step up preparations irrespective of the cost.
The organisations involved in the 2018 WEF event included (still according to World Economic Forum n.d.), besides the Gates Foundation,
- the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness and Innovations (CEPI);
- Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance;
- the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative;
- the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers Associations (IFPMA);
- Becton, Dickinson and Co. (a health safety equipment and testing firm);
- Henry Schein (a dental equipment firm also active in vaccines);
- Air Asia, and
Besides the medical schools of two universities (Johns Hopkins and Georgetown) and the BBC, another participant was Edelman, the world’s largest PR firm. On its website it boasts that it ‘introduced the concept of telling stories through the media (including the creation of the first media tour) to sell products and build corporate brands, .. With its grounding in consumer marketing, the firm then diversified into health, public affairs, technology and crisis management’. One might reasonably infer that Edelman (and the BBC) were brought on board of the event to assist in the propagation of the preferred response, should a real emergency arise.
Fast-forward to October 2019 and key members of the same group, Johns Hopkins again, the Gates Foundation, and the World Economic Forum held a symposium in New York, Event 201—A Global Pandemic Exercise. This was a large-scale simulation, or ‘germ-game’ (as in war game), Indeed for Gates, preparation for a large epidemic should resemble preparation for war; rapid advances in biotechnology were needed that ‘should dramatically change the turnaround time’ for vaccines and therapeutics (Sault 2020). The Event 201 ‘germ game’ was based on a fictional scenario in which a coronavirus called CAPS, emanating from Brazilian pigs, infected people globally. The exercise estimated that a year and a half into the pandemic, the number of deaths would run into the tens of millions (Parry 2020).
While many will wonder to what extent the current Covid-19 response is based on these ‘germ game’ simulation outcomes than on the real threat, we must leave that for virologists and epidemiologists to establish—if they ever can. For once we are in the post-lockdown condition, it can always be claimed that thanks to government intervention the world over, the impact was kept at a minimum. Meanwhile Bill Gates has been expounding on a global vaccination regime that should follow the current epidemic. In an interview with the non-profit TED organisation he also spoke for in Vancouver in 19 2015, Gates said that ‘he and a large team are moving fast to test anti-virals, vaccines and other therapeutics and to bring them to market as quickly as possible’, with the Wellcome Trust and MasterCard also involved. As Rosemary Frei writes,
It appears that rather than let the population be exposed to the virus and …develop antibodies that give them natural, long-lasting immunity to COVID-19, Gates and his colleagues far prefer to create a vast, hugely expensive, new system of manufacturing and selling billions of test kits, and in parallel very quickly developing and selling billions of antivirals and vaccines. And then, when the virus comes back again a few months later and most of the population is unexposed and therefore vulnerable, selling billions more test kits and medical interventions (Frei 2020).
At Event 201 a poll was circulated that showed that 65 percent of the US population would volunteer to be inoculated against a coronavirus even if it were still an experimental vaccine. The income generated in this way would of course be astronomical —unless of course, a far cheaper alternative would be available that would spoil the whole enterprise.
Biotechnology Versus Over-the-Counter Medicine
The process of class formation led by the Gates/Event 201 vanguard, with its swelling ranks of Big Pharma companies, venture capital associated with biotechnology start-ups, the national security sector comprising the military and intelligence, and the IT companies developing the surveillance infrastructure for it, still has to deal with forces in the way of the global vaccination/surveillance project, also in the medical sphere itself. They are also competing against established medications against malaria that can reduce the impact of the virus considerably.
The first company in the news for developing a medication for Covid-19 was the multibillion, California-based biotech firm Gilead Sciences, which also works with the US Army. Its prototype drug (not a vaccine) remdesivir is already being administered on a ‘compassionate’ basis, which means that those whose lives are at stake, are given the drug as a last resort (and of course, test for others). Should Covid-19 become a seasonal illness 20 similar to influenza, then a vaccine would probably be ready for the winter of 2020-’21. Other companies too are rushing to develop a drug against the virus, but Gilead is clearly ahead (Baumann 2020). After the WHO commended the company’s experimental drug as the best bet for a treatment, its stock surged, with financial analysts expecting it to bring in a one-time revenue of about $2.5 billion whilst already adding $12 billion to the company’s market value (Bloomberg Law 2020).
Gilead is a biotech success story operating at the highest levels of science after it was founded in 1987 by Michael L. Riordan, a young medical doctor and Harvard Business School alumnus at the time. He recruited several Nobel Prize winners as advisers and also brought in key politicians such as aforementioned Donald Rumsfeld and George P. Shultz, Secretary of State under Reagan, as directors. The company had to deal with several lawsuits on account of allegedly delaying the introduction of new antiretroviral drugs to maximise profit on older medication; it has also been criticised for legal practices impeding attempts by countries such as India to develop generic alternatives (Wikipedia, ‘Gilead Sciences’).
Now whilst Gilead and other biotech companies in the billion dollar asset bracket, several of which are associated with the Gates/WHO/Big Pharma complex, are racing to consolidate their position in the market for a Covid-19 drug, in France and in China a ready alternative was identified, hydroxychloroquine (Chloroquine or Plaquenil). Chloroquine is a simple, inexpensive malaria treatment (its introduction dates from 1955) with a good track record in reducing the viral load of corona infections such as SARS, and it looks promising as a treatment for Covid-19 too. ‘Chinese scientists published their first trials on more than 100 patients and [in mid-February] announced that the Chinese National Health Commission would recommend Chloroquine in their new guidelines to treat Covid-19’ (Depuydt 2020; Wikipedia, “Chloroquine’).
Clearly this is bad news for the biotech giants and it would seem, they have the silent support of the WHO and several governments. As I suggested above, the world-wide lockdowns at least partly serve the interests of ruling classes faced with growing public dissatisfaction, which will only be compounded by the economic depression that is imminent. Therefore they will not easily give up the hold on public life obtained by reference to the pandemic, just as business will not let go of the opportunity for commercial exploitation.
Anthony Fauci, the NIAID director close to Bill Gates, spoke out against Chloroquine 21 because obviously this would spoil the prospects for Big Pharma to a considerable extent (FortRuss 2020). Indeed as one financial analyst commented, ‘If a Covid-19 Therapy Doesn’t Benefit A Stock, Does It Even Exist?’ (cited in Depuydt 2020).The WHO originally had Chloroquine in second place on its list of drugs to be evaluated for corona virus treatment, but has so far not reacted to the four clinical trials that have been undertaken and have received EU approval. In its praise of China’s and South Korea’s handling of the epidemic, the WHO emphasises their draconian quarantine measures, but no mention is made of the fact that those countries have been using Chloroquine as an efficient Covid-19 treatment (Depuydt 2020). But then the Chinese response was not unified and the Beijing leadership apparently intervened to change the initial strategy.
In France, Professor Didier Raoult, of IHU—Mediterranée Marseille, one of the world’s top five scientists on communicable diseases, has argued against mass quarantine, advocating large-scale testing and treatment instead. His recommendation to use Chloroquine (in combination with zinc and an antibiotic) proved successful but was initially rejected by the government in Paris and by Sanofi-Pasteur, the aforementioned pharma company which is in the race for a Covid-19 treatment and vaccine. In October 2019, before the virus outbreak was public, the French minister of health in fact decided, without explanation, to put Chloroquine on the list of ‘controlled substances’, making the common over-the-counter malaria drug (Plaquenil) into a prescription medication. Only after Raoult’s results received widespread acclaim in France did the government accede to new trials, whilst Sanofi-Pasteur announced it would begin producing enough Chloroquine to treat 300,000 patients. Britain too has shown it wants to have Chloroquine as a fall-back option and in the last week of February put it on the list of drugs that can no longer be exported from the UK (Depuydt 2020).
However, the interests behind commercial exploitation of the corona virus outbreak are enormous. Medicine generally is taking great strides, including a new super-drug for genetic diseases into which biotech firms like Allergan, Cellgene, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, and others of the Gates cohort have already invested more than $1 billion (Sullivan 2020). It is clear that they are not in the mood to be out-competed by a $5 drug like Chloroquine when it comes to battling the Covid-19 epidemic.
Now how will the population in the countries under lockdown ever accept that public life and large swathes of the economy will go down the drain to allow Bill Gates and his friends in the world health-Big Pharma complex to realise their plans for dealing with 22 what may well be a very limited and manageable virus epidemic? This takes us to a key aspect of dealing with public protest, the ideological front.
Neutralising the Political Effects of an Impending Economic Collapse
Once a depression sets in, something which is now inevitable, protest will target the oligarchy and the capitalist organisation of the economy. How can this be prevented? This concern is not new. It goes back to the fear among mid- and late 19th-century ruling classes and their organic intellectuals that the rising working class might be swayed by radical leaders. At the time, it was proposed to strip Political Economy, ‘public householding’, originally developed in Britain with Adam Smith and David Ricardo as its main exponents, of the adjective ‘political’ to make it sound more neutral and remove the idea it can be changed by political intervention. Especially after Karl Marx had taken the classical labour theory of value to its logical conclusion (that all profit is traceable to unpaid ‘surplus value’), a rupture with value theory itself was mandatory. Marginalism, the theory extrapolated from the idea that marginal land produces lower yields, offered an alternative concept of value: the last unit of product that still brings profit to the person investing in it (or the last hour worked by a worker), is the value measure for the entire output or effort. What it yields above that (the preceding units) is profit.
One key adherent of marginalism, W. Stanley Jevons (1835-’82; he actually was the one proposing to drop ‘political’ from political economy) in 1879 argued that business cycles were not governed by overproduction or underconsumption, inherent in capitalism, but by sun spots. As he put it in 1879, ‘I am perfectly convinced that these decennial crises do depend upon meteorological variations of like period, which again depend, in all probability, upon cosmical variations of which we have evidence in the frequency of sunspots, auroras, and magnetic perturbations’ (Jevons 1879, abstract). So nothing to be done about.
The abandoning of the labour theory of value for the notion of marginal, subjective value was not just a ploy of class-conscious ideologues. It was also a reflection of the ascendancy of a class of investors no longer involved in actual production, the rentier class. They looked at the return on investment in an objectively marginalist fashion, withholding further investment when the rate of return diminished.
During the interval from the 1930s to the 1970s, capital-labour compromise, a social 23 contract centred on mass production industry, in turn marginalised the financiers, as famously recommended by Keynes. However, they were given free rein again under Reagan and Thatcher. Hence the characteristics of rentier dominance returned (Burn 2006).
As a result,
- fear of the lower classes;
- the primacy of the financial asset investment element in actual capitalism, and
- the need for a natural, politically neutral explanation of economic downturn,
—are all at play in the current collapse again. As one Dutch newspaper headlined, ‘Corona crisis pushes economy into the abyss’; not speculative capitalism, not even a misguided government policy, but a fact of nature.
This was different when the 2008 financial collapse put an end to the successive attempts by Western governments from around 1968 to maintain a (narrowing) social contract and domestic class peace by inflation and/or debt accumulation (Streeck 2013). In 2008 the irresponsible business practices of speculative capital were in full view as the immediate cause of this collapse; it began when the sub-prime mortgage crisis exploded the derivatives markets, in which irredeemable debt was packaged into triple-A-rated ‘financial products’. Yet the political and ideological power of the financial asset investors was not broken and they succeeded in making their respective governments, first of all the US and UK’s, bail them out at public expense. Thus the sector that had precipitated the descent into crisis was put on its feet again. ‘The success of the rescue operations’, François Chesnais writes, ‘has allowed them to preserve their domination’ (Chesnais 2011: 66). In fact, after the banks had been saved for the benefit of their owners and shareholders, the provision of free liquidity through Quantitative Easing and near zero interest rates continued, with the same groups the main beneficiaries. This had little or nothing to do with stimulating real investment, production, and jobs. ‘It was about restoring the [financial elite’s] wealth and assets, not just rescuing their banks’ (Rasmus 2016: 264).
With business-as-usual officially sanctioned, it was therefore no secret that a new financial collapse was only a matter of time. Towards the end of 2019, some of the main beneficiaries were evidently voting with their feet, signalling the bull market was about to end. As NBC reported in November, 24
Chief executives are leaving in record numbers this year, with more than 1,332 stepping aside in the period from January through the end of October, according to new data released on Wednesday. While it’s not unusual to see CEOs fleeing in the middle of a recession, it is noteworthy to see such a rash of executive exits amid robust corporate earnings and record stock market highs (Snyder 2020).
As CEOs they knew of course, from data like the graph below showing the overheated US stock market, that the bonanza could not be expected to hold out much longer.
Source: Bourbon Financial Management, July 30th, 2019
The trend of CEOs stepping down continued in January 2020 and now the coronavirus epidemic was probably also a factor. Top executives, leaving to the tune of more than two hundred that month, must have considered that their personal finances were more important than their responsibility for the companies entrusted to them on behalf of the stakeholders (Snyder 2020). This is a reminder that CEOs in contemporary capitalism are financial asset investors first, buying up their own stock to push up its price and raise their company’s market value, which usually is also part of their own compensation package (cash plus shares). That the globalised, fragile capitalist world economy subject to volatile finance will also disintegrate, is obviously not their prime concern (Desai 2020).
Now that the lockdowns in most of the West and a number of countries on its fringes 25 are exterminating large swathes of small and medium business, throwing millions and millions out of work, the oligarchy, with its liquid holdings at the ready, will pound on the loot that is waiting for them. As the Guardian reported in March 2020, the number of multimillionaires ($30 million or more) was growing fast, swelling to more than half a million ‘despite the global growth slowdown’. Almost half of them live in the United States (240,575); China is next with 61,578 (although it has more billionaires than the US), Germany next with 23,078, then France (18,776), Japan (17,013), the UK (14, 367), Italy (10,701), Canada (9,325), Russia (8,924) and Switzerland (8,395) (Neate 2020, emphasis added).
Yet unless the ideological coronavirus spell is broken, a revolt against the super-rich is not to be expected. After the 2008 collapse, a brief period of anger against the banks ensued, until 2010 when the crisis was successfully redefined as a Greek debt crisis (Lynteris 2011). The financial asset investors could still be bailed out at the expense of society at large as people were satisfied that it was all to blame on the ‘lazy Greeks’. This time, ‘nature’ has struck in the form of the coronavirus and no questions will be asked, or at least they will not be answered otherwise than by dismissing them as ‘conspiracy theories’, ‘fake news’, etc. Indeed the financiers are bailing themselves out before the event, whereas all others must fear the worst.
READ THE ENTIRE 63 pages of this ARTICLE (PDF): Health_Emergency_or_Seizure_of_Power (1)
Originally published on https://www.newcoldwar.org/health-emergency-or-seizure-of-power-thepolitical-economy-of-covid-19/
Thanks to Karel van Wolferen for key materials, and to Radhika Desai, Alan Freeman, Giorgio Romano Schutte and Henk Overbeek for comments on a previous version.
PS Cabal’s main target: depopulation and world dominance
About the 5500 NGOs, connected to the UN, who do so-called charity work. Upon investigating their very own financial papers, we discovered that NGOs are nothing but the perfect business model to launder money (billions of dollars!), to avoid paying tax, and to invest in the Cabal’s main target: depopulation and world dominance. Join us to peel off a few more layers of this onion, to found who the Cabal truly is!
PS Are Vaccine Companies Opening Pandora’s Box?
Moderna is one of the Big Pharma companies approved for making mRNA based Covid_19 Vaccine.
Here are few quotes from the Moderna website:
Enabling Drug Discovery & Development
We built Moderna on the guiding premise that if using mRNA as a medicine works for one disease, it should work for many diseases. And, if this is possible – given the right approach and infrastructure – it could meaningfully improve how medicines are discovered, developed and manufactured.
Our Operating System
Recognizing the broad potential of mRNA science, we set out to create an mRNA technology platform that functions very much like an operating system on a computer. It is designed so that it can plug and play interchangeably with different programs. In our case, the “program” or “app” is our mRNA drug – the unique mRNA sequence that codes for a protein.
We have a dedicated team of several hundred scientists and engineers solely focused on advancing Moderna’s platform technology. They are organized around key disciplines and work in an integrated fashion to advance knowledge surrounding mRNA science and solve for challenges that are unique to mRNA drug development. Some of these disciplines include mRNA biology, chemistry, formulation & delivery, bioinformatics and protein engineering.
Our mRNA Medicines – The ‘Software of Life’
When we have a concept for a new mRNA medicine and begin research, fundamental components are already in place.
Generally, the only thing that changes from one potential mRNA medicine to another is the coding region – the actual genetic code that instructs ribosomes to make protein. Utilizing these instruction sets gives our investigational mRNA medicines a software-like quality. We also have the ability to combine different mRNA sequences encoding for different proteins in a single mRNA investigational medicine.
We are leveraging the flexibility afforded by our platform and the fundamental role mRNA plays in protein synthesis to pursue mRNA medicines for a broad spectrum of diseases.
Learn how our Research Engine and Early Development Engine are enabling us to fully maximize the promise of mRNA to meaningfully improve how medicines are discovered, developed and manufactured.
Overcoming Key Challenges
Using mRNA to create medicines is a complex undertaking and requires overcoming novel scientific and technical challenges. We need to get the mRNA into the targeted tissue and cells while evading the immune system. If the immune system is triggered, the resultant response may limit protein production and, thus, limit the therapeutic benefit of mRNA medicines. We also need ribosomes to think the mRNA was produced naturally, so they can accurately read the instructions to produce the right protein. And we need to ensure the cells express enough of the protein to have the desired therapeutic effect.
Our multidisciplinary platform teams work together closely to address these scientific and technical challenges. This intensive cross-functional collaboration has enabled us to advance key aspects of our platform and make significant strides to deliver mRNA medicines for patients.
Using “plandemic” as an excuse to vaccinate 7 billion people is highly inappropriate and it can lead to disaster much greater than virus itself which has 99% survival rate.
Lockdowns created economic hardship and fear that killed already more people than the Covid-19 ( https://blog.world-mysteries.com/science/this-must-end-now/ )…
Reprogramming “the software of Life” ( as Moderna puts it) has huge potential for causing unpredictable damage to humanity. In case of mistakes (or in the wrong hands), it can become a perfect tool for decimating population of our planet.