Cemetery workers in protective clothing maneuver the coffin of 57-year-old Paulo Jose da Silva, who died from the new coronavirus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, June 5, 2020. According to Monique dos Santos, her stepfather mocked the existence of the virus, didn't use a mask, didn't take care of himself, and wanted to shake hands with everybody. "He didn't believe in it and unfortunately he met this end. It's very sad, but that's the truth," she said. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

“Imperialism is announcing the future right now: capitalism with barbarism”, we denounced last year in the face of the increasing number of deaths and attacks on workers in the midst of the pandemic. Many considered the “Emergency programme against the pandemic and the economic crisis” proposed by the IWL-FI to be alarmist or exaggerated, but the current state of the conditions of existence of the majority of the proletariat throughout the world – and particularly in the dominated countries – leaves no doubt: we are facing a genocide!

By IWL-FI

On 7 March 2021, according to data available on Our Word in Data, 2.28% of the world’s population had been vaccinated [1]. At this rate, 70% of the population (a figure considered by the WHO as necessary to achieve “herd immunity” and overcome the pandemic) would not have been got their two jabs until January 2025.

But these figures, though shocking, are much worse, because they hide an essential factor of reality: the profound inequality in the pace of vaccination between countries. The vaccine has become the business of the century. The following table shows the pace of vaccination in some countries and regions.

While the rate of vaccination is growing in some countries and regions of the world, such as the United States and Western Europe, in most countries, what is really growing is the death toll, a product of the murderous gear that puts the lives of the majority of the world’s population at the mercy of a handful of pharmaceutical oligopolies and their states.

Africa’s almost flat line on the graph indicates the path of tragedy but, on other continents, some countries that went a little further on vaccination end up raising the line on the graph without reflecting the true picture of the region.

If we look at the death toll (below), we can get a more realistic picture of the ongoing genocide. The jump in the number of deaths in Brazil contrasts starkly with the progress of vaccination in the United States on the graph above.

In most countries, killer governments, in addition to keeping factories and services open (the “new normal”), haven’t ensured the minimum social conditions for isolation, which implies a tendency to increase the infection rate. If we add to this the virus mutations, which can render vaccines ineffective, we may be experiencing a catastrophe of even more profound proportions in most countries that have no access to vaccination.

If the data on global vaccination can be considered close to reality, as they are based on countries whose state infrastructure allows for monitoring, the statistics on deaths are categorically underestimated. Not only because of their political use but also because of the absolute lack of control in a large number of countries.

Hypocritically, the bourgeoisies of some countries, concerned with their business, use the media to demand “mass vaccination.” Without paralysing the functioning of their businesses and the exploitation of the workers, they only shed “crocodile tears” for the increase of infections and deaths, but they haven’t proposed any measures to waive vaccine patent rights, the only current way to extend vaccination.

A patent is a right granted to an inventor that permits him to exclude others from making or selling it unless he charges a “patent fee” on other producers under agreed terms. This criterion of private ownership of patents and patent rights is thus transformed into a big business of capitalism, under the name of “intellectual property”.

The management of genocide

The government administration of countries subordinated to imperialism can be summed up as managing death due to hunger and unemployment, or Covid, both of which are results of subordination to imperialism.

The gap between the growing number of deaths in some countries and the number of those vaccinated in others could begin to narrow if the patents on Covid vaccines were broken. That is if the vaccine formulas could be freely used.

The absolute contradiction between the needs of humanity and profit, which means slow death from misery and starvation, is accelerated by the pandemic and is now turning into genocide.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are 200 experimental vaccines in development, of which more than 60 are in the clinical phase. The WHO have given the green signal for the Pfizer vaccine on 31 December 2020 and for AstraZeneca/Oxford’s on 15 February. After that, the Chinese vaccine CoronoVac and the Russian vaccine Sputnik went their own ways.

The Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), based on researches by the John Hopkins University (USA), estimate that only one-fifth of the population will have access to the vaccine by 2022. A report by the Duke University Global Health Institute (USA) noted that, as of mid-January, a group of high-income countries, home to 16% of the world’s population, had reserved 60% of the global vaccine supply. This means that these countries have reserved far more vaccines than are needed for their own population. According to a report by the NGO One Campaign, they have a surplus of one billion doses.

While a handful of oligopolistic pharmaceutical companies make fabulous profits for their shareholders, at prices that are unaffordable for most countries, they take advantage of the patent rights they now enjoy, while millions of people are condemned to death.

The aforementioned Médecins Sans Frontières note denounces: “We are witnessing a scenario of enormous tensions and obscure negotiations. So far, the context is characterised by the fact that the countries that pay the most are those with the largest vaccinated populations and the pharmaceutical corporations operate through secret bilateral purchase agreements.”

The Intellectual Property (IP) we have referred to (its application in bourgeois laws and its cost in royalty payments) prevents various countries, which possess the technical capacity and industrial infrastructure to produce at least some of the already proven versions of vaccines, from having a mass production that meets the needs of the majority of the population of their countries and others in the world. This would be the case, for example, in Brazil and Argentina.

These companies claim to have invested millions of dollars in their researches. But the reality is that it is the governments of the states (for example, the United States and Great Britain) in which they are headquartered that have funded them with a total of US$ 12 billion for the development of the vaccines. In other words, it was public money, and, if we go even deeper, a significant part of that money came from the exploitation of the dominated countries, which now have no access to the vaccine.

As if this were not enough, in countries where there is some slow vaccination plan underway, these are conditioned by corruption, cronyism and petty political disputes between bourgeois factions, as is the case in Argentina and Brazil [2].

In short, there is social class management at the service of the profits of the big pharmaceutical oligopolies. This shows that, although the technological and productive conditions exist, imperialist capitalism can’t succeed in stopping the death of millions of people that could have been avoided.

China and Russia, although all the fallacies and lies that they are non-capitalist countries, also sell their vaccine stock on the world market, just like the Western monopolies. At most, they open their way at a lower price to take the market from them.

They keep their patent rights as part of the killing gear of world capitalism. China, especially, uses its production capacity in what has been called “vaccine diplomacy,” donating to countries where they want to expand or maintain their political influence [3].

Paraguay points the way

As for Saturday 6 March, huge demonstrations in Paraguay demand the resignation of President Mario Abdo Benítez because of the lack of basic medicines to maintain the lives of patients hospitalised with Covid, a situation denounced by the nursing unions and relatives of the hospitalised patients.

In an attempt to contain the anger that is being expressed on the streets, the Paraguayan president fired a couple of ministers, but so far this has not stopped the protests. According to the media, the explosion of hatred among the population, in a country that has 4,000 doses of vaccines for a population of seven million people, can be explained by “bad management [in the face of] the pandemic of the new coronavirus.”

The “mismanagement” of the corrupt Abdo Benítez government is not a characteristic of this epidemic that is unique to Paraguay. It is a general characteristic of bourgeois governments and is more evident in semi-colonial countries. There is an intrinsic corruption of the system in which the “bourgeois mafias,” organised as parties, raid the state budgets. They are bourgeoisies of a lumpen character which, separated from the central sectors of capitalist accumulation, not only rob the state by legal means (privatisation, public debt, privileged credits) but also through pure and simple theft, or through criminal activities, and they do so also during the pandemic.

In Brazil, in addition to this corruption, the Bolsonaro government is betting, criminally and consciously, on a “natural herd immunity” that would be achieved when a high percentage of the population is already infected, even at the cost of millions of lives. The daily death toll has surpassed 2,000 and will soon reach 3,000, with hospitals in major centres already collapsing.

If “bad management” is a characteristic of the peripheral countries, it cannot be said that the imperialist countries are examples of “good management” either. In the United States, which, as we have seen, have large surpluses of purchased vaccines, vaccination is quite chaotic because of the absence of a centralised public health system and the profound differences in the infrastructure and capacity of the various states.

The fallacy of “European solidarity”

European governments find themselves unable to control the big pharmaceuticals driving them to serious difficulties in complying with vaccination plans due to government subjugation to them.

The billions of euros forpopulation aid” are left to individual countries according to their economic power, showing a sharp contrast between countries and, in each country, between the large transfers to major corporations and the crumbs devoted to workers and small entrepreneurs.

The fallacy of “European solidarity,” expressed in the joint purchase of vaccines, became clear after the scandal at the beginning of the pandemic (Member States banning the intra-EU export of vital medical supplies to treat the virus…). Germany and France could not allow part of the EU countries to run out of vaccines (or buy them from Russia or China) while they were well supplied. The blow to their authority and to EU unity would have been devastating.

But the apparent harmony will last as long as the social crisis in the peripheric countries is not unleashed and the impositions of the EU directorate are revealed in the open because the funds distributed by the directorate are the opposite of solidarity among the European peoples. They are funds subordinated to the plans of German and French capitalism and destined to maintain and reinforce the dependence of the European periphery, reinforcing their structural weaknesses and their subordinate role in the European division of labour. The enormous indebtedness with which Italy, the Spanish state, Portugal and Greece have already entered the pandemic has risen sharply throughout 2020 and will continue to inflate in 2021, leaving these countries at the mercy of the ECB and the European Commission.

The urgent need to waive patent rights

But whether in Paraguay, Brazil, the United States or Europe, no bourgeois sector seriously questions the legal apparatus that protects the immense profits of these pharmaceutical conglomerates: patents and their private property.

This contradiction is much deeper in certain peripheral countries because the respect for patents on existing vaccines prevents them from producing them in sufficient quantity and speed to serve the entire population. Nor does it benefit the workers in the imperialist countries because what their governments are spending today on national vaccination plans will be “cashed in,” sooner rather than later, from their labour and exploitation as well…

The thirst for big profits from patents on medical services and supplies (coupled with the non-existence of real public health systems or the deterioration of existing ones) means that not even the population of the imperialist countries is safe from mass infection. The numbers of the impact of the pandemic in the United States are a clear illustration of this.

Countries like Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, among others, have the industrial capacity to produce vaccines in sufficient quantity for their population and send them for example to Paraguay.

The billions of dollars that the shareholders of the private companies producing vaccines are receiving are already beginning to be seen in the stock market prices and in the fortunes of their owners (true vampires in the midst of this catastrophe). The richest man in China, owning US$ 85 billion, is Zhong Shanshan, the largest shareholder of Beijing Wantai Biological Pharmacy Enterprise, manufacturer of a “private” vaccine. It is estimated that the profits of other manufacturing companies in the western hemisphere could quadruple (Moderna) or double (BioNTech) by 2022. [4]

So far only regrets

The debate at the United Nations (UN) on the call for the “emergency and provisional patents waiving,” which was pushed by South Africa and India and supported by about 100 countries, has been reduced to a mere lamentation. The representatives of the imperialist countries and many lackey governments preferred to maintain the current genocide. This is another evidence of the UN role as an advocator of the interests of imperialism and not of the interests of the peoples and masses of the world.

We make it clear that we are not referring to a socialist measure of expropriation of these companies, something we also strongly defend. If fighting imperialism is the only way out for the semi-colonial world, a simple measure today, to waive patent rights, must be enacted immediately by the countries with the capacity to produce them to help to stop the ongoing genocide. We are proposing a much more elementary measure that would only restrict the super-profits of a handful of vampires that, at the moment, are being extracted from millions of sick and dead people.

If the pharmaceutical corporations, after having obscenely increased their fortunes, waive their patent rights in the coming months, their actions will be remembered by official bourgeois history as “philanthropic” and “humanist”. But it will be too late for the dead from the pandemic whose death toll, until and if it happens, will continue to increase more and more. Waiving patents will have to be imposed by the mobilisation of the masses immediately.

Therefore, it is an obligation of the governments of the countries that could mass-produce vaccines, such as South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and India, to unilaterally waive patent rights and start producing them immediately and, while they do not produce them, to immediately guarantee social isolation with subsidies to guarantee the lives of urban workers and peasants.

This is a demand that must be urgently taken up by all workers’ and mass organisations in these countries.

Notes:

[1] https://ouraworldindat.org/covid-vaccinations/ calculations performed by https://covidvax.live/

[2] Read the story Vacunación contra el Covid-19: entre el caos capitalista y los privilegios de clase

[3] Covid Vaccines: New Diplomacy Tool for India and China – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

[4] https://cincodias.elpais.com/cincodias/2020/11/26/companias/1606411859_470807.html