The principal question raised by the Foreign Secretary’s claim that the Russian government is behind attempts to hack Corona virus vaccine research is not how much worse Russian gangster capitalism is compared with our home grown variety but why this research is being conducted in secret in the first place.
Our planet faces two existential crises
- the de-stabilisation of the climate through fossil fuel consumption.
- the current global pandemic that, unchecked, could kill hundreds of millions worldwide.
The only known solution to the climate crisis is to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Subsidising windmills and home insulation only reduces fossil fuel extraction at the margin.
The best solution to the global pandemic is co-operatively to develop a vaccine, sharing the knowledge as we go along.
Capitalism is incapable of doing either. Its continence depends on profit maximisation. Contrary to the belief of social democrats, the grip of oligarchs on our ‘democratic’ governments is just too strong for capitalism and social responsibility to co-exist.
The production of a Covid-19 vaccine is, in Marxist terms, a productive force. Its development is inhibited by the legal framework of commercial secrecy which is an essential part of profit maximisation under capitalism. Similarly, green technology is a productive force whose development is inhibited by the continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels which provide energy that is more profitable than the green alternatives – but only because under capitalism the price necessarily excludes the social cost of global warming.
Marx wrote in the Preface to his Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy:
At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.
Marx’s analysis above appears to fit the current situation perfectly. Does it follow that we are now entering an era of social revolution that will end capitalism and transform society?
Yes, but only if, as communists, we agitate, educate and organise.