As the Corona pandemic gradually takes a dangerous turn, almost all the leaders of the world are searching a scapegoat. The US President Donald Trump makes China the sole responsible for the crisis without any hesitation. It is claimed that the Covid-19 virus has been deliberately leaked from the laboratory of the Virology Institute of Wuhan and the name of the virus must be ‘China Virus’! Even he accuses World Health Organisation (WHO) of being “very China-centric”.1 The members of the Republican Party, a large sections of the US media and the lackeys of Trump administration are showing stronger vocal power accusing China. As for example, it is plainly stated that China is preparing bio-weapons and the spread of the coronavirus is a part of that programme. Some others are speaking about the conspiracy of Democratic Party to defeat Trump in the coming Presidential election. Someone has discovered more sinister design finding the conspiracy of Central Intelligence Force (CIA) to contain China. Conspiracy theories involving the name of the billionaire Bill Gates and 5G Spectrum are surfacing randomly and become blockbuster hit in the social media.2 Now, the China administration joins the chorus of ‘conspiracy’ theories. On 12th March, the spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry blames the USA for transmitting corona virus to Wuhan.3 Besides this, efforts of indicting particular groups of people are going on. The ultra-rightist leaders of the western countries, in particular, join the chorus accusing Asians (‘yellow menace’), infiltrators, refugees, and Africans as responsible in spreading the virus. It is demanded to close the country’s borders for them. In addition to these, accusing Muslims and spreading ‘Islamophobia’ are very common which are in tune with the Indian ruling elites.4 It’s a pandemonium indeed!
But all of the people have not joined in echoing Trump or ultra-nationalists to find a scapegoat. Many scientists/experts remain absorbed in serious research to find a clue how the Covid-19 virus emerged in industrialised Wuhan city of China. From where did the virus come; how did it spread all over the world – these questions are stormed the brains of these scientists. In this context, it is notable that the global scientists/experts are deeply engaged in research to find out the sources of viruses like corona, or Nipah, Zika, Ebola, etc for long. The news of their research work may be unknown to the world leaders; even they are eager to conceal the results of scientific researches under their desk.
Eleven scientists of National Academic of Sciences of the USA in 2013 unveiled the facts that the virus of corona-type emerged from wild animals. As for example, the viruses are spilled over from various types of bats or other wild animals of denser forests to the pigs, pangolin, ducks, chickens or other domesticated animals. After the spilling over these viruses jump to the humans and infected them.5 The studies of the scientists and other experts in the field reported that hunters in the primitive ages, even the humans of not so far ago – as they were involved in agricultural work, making habitations in cutting forest-trees, and making the forest land fertile for agrarian activities – came into contact with wild animals. Different types of viruses and microbes either directly from the wild animals or through some animal-intermediaries jump to the human bodies. Due to the infectious diseases scores of people died, and/or they succeeded in developing immunity in a gradual process. The relocation and displacement of the herds of people from one region to another (primarily in search for foods and shelters), wars (i.e., the movement of the armies), expansion of commercial activities, and due to colonial campaigns, the viruses, bacteria and protozoa are transmitted from one place to other, from one continent to other continents.6
In 2008, a research paper of a group of scientists said that between 1960 and 2004, humans were infected by 335 emerging diseases and out of which 60 per cent came from wildlife. Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the USA opined that in actual fact, it will be 75 per cent.7 Rob Wallace in his book ‘Bid Firms Make Big Flu’ showed that in the last 20 years the humans were infected by 27 contagious diseases, i.e. different types of influenzas (one of them is corona), African Swine Flu, Ebola, Foot and Mouth Disease, Nipah, Zika, etc and all of these diseases emerged from wild animals.8
A question may arise that in this ‘ultra-modern’ era why is the ‘well-civilised’ humans infected by diseases carried by wild animals? The answer to this question is not complicated. Still the media and different hues of ‘experts’ – those are generally patronised by the leaders like Trump or Johnson – tried their best to suppress the facts of these researches. Let us take the example of Wuhan city of China – highly industrialised and urbanised. It is propagated that large wet markets of Wuhan – where the meat of different types of living animals is sold off, e.g., fishes, chickens, pigs, pangolins, etc – are the sources of the Covid-19 virus which jumped over to the human bodies. It is assumed that the virus from bats spills over to pigs or pangolins and then it jumps over to the humans. These wet markets of Wuhan and the food habits of the Chinese people are bullied at one’s pleasure in the western society. The New York Times “consciously described China’s ‘omnivorous’ markets in a way that would be aesthetically unacceptable to its western audience (whole plucked chickens – with heads and beaks attached)”. Besides this, NYT writes that wide varieties of “Live snakes, turtles and cicadas, guinea pigs, bamboo rats, badgers, hedgehogs, otters, palm civets, even wolf cubs” are sold in these markets.9 The western readers are shivering at this description. The complexed orientalist idea about the Chinese’s food habits is strengthened at this narration. Possibly, many ‘cultured’ Indians bully at the food habits of the Chinese people. From the ‘babus’ of Indians – who are accustomed to preach utter hatred and contempt to the ‘uncivilised-savage’ adivasis – no better conduct would be expected.
In fact, the type of capitalism developed in China – following and copying the neo-liberal capitalism of advanced capitalist countries – cannot deliver nothing new where the contacts among the wild animals of the dense forests and humans are indispensable outcome. Two interlinked processes are observed in the Wuhan city of highly industrialised Hubei province of China. Firstly, in the name of ‘development’ and ‘growth’, the capitalist ‘civilisation’ made hectic efforts clearing the denser forests to develop industrial farming, industries, mining, urbanisation, roads and railways with a breakneck speed. As a result, the wild animals from the denser forests (let us take bats) are moving to human habitations in search for foods and shelters. Through this process, the domesticated animals like pigs, cows, buffalos, chickens, ducks, etc are coming in contact with the wild animals and sometimes take the role of intermediaries to transmit viruses from bats to humans. It is notable in this context that the bats are reservoirs of nearly 65 viruses which can infect humans.10
Secondly, the small producers or farmers of china, previouly engaged in small businesses of pigs, ducks, or chickens, were gradually ousted by the giant multinational corporations. These companies wrested away the fields of animal farming from the small producers; small businesses were taken in by these companies; and they developed large vertically integrated animal firms. The landless farmers were forced to make contracts with the multinational biggies and intruded into denser forests to collect wild animals to deliver them to the agents of the companies. Many of those producers became wage-labour in the industries of Wuhan. Some of them, still believing that they can farm ‘independently’, entered the denser forest in search of wildlife. As a result, the interface among humans and wild animals continued at a faster rate.
Each animal species has an independent space in the ecology. There are natural borders among different species. These natural borders have been constantly breached to the extreme by the advent of neoliberal capitalism. In effect, it is either from wet markets of China, or from the meat businesses of the multinationals, the coronaviruses are spilled over from bats to pigs/pangolins and then to humans. Moreover, this is not an accident but normal phenomena.
The analysis of the operations of big meat companies clearly suggest how these companies –salivated for super profits – are making rooms for the spread of contagious diseases. In the world markets, the pig meat is traded most – it’s share being 35-40 per cent, whereas the chickens’ share is 35 per cent and that of cow and buffalo is 22 per cent.11 The US multinational Smithfield Food is the frontrunner in the pig meat industry. It operates its businesses in China, Poland, Britain, Romania, Mexico, etc. It has a giant industrial firm in North Carolina of the USA from which 32 thousands of pigs were being processed daily in the year of 2000.12 Therefore, it is very much clear that hundreds of thousands of pigs are cramped together into the smallest possible cells of a giant firm. The jumbled up pigs are smeared with feces-foods-manure-drugs and industrial wastes. As a result, in this extreme unhealthy conditions the viruses are moving from one pig into another with utmost ease. In fact, if the farming of the animals is occurred in an open field – i.e. farming of several species like pigs, cows, buffalos, chickens or ducks – the virus which only selects pigs as intermediaries – cannot find easy prey in this multicultural environment. But in case of monoculture (it is pig in this case), virus can travel from one pig to another very easily.13 The conditions of the labours working here and slaughtering pigs in this horrible unhealthy conditions are miserable. They are mainly illegal immigrants who are forced to work under any conditions and do any type of jobs. In effect, a perfect condition is created in these firms for jumping over viruses from the pigs to workers.14 The writer of ‘Bird Flu: A Virus of Our Own Hatching’, Michael Greger calls factory farming a “perfect storm environment” for infectious diseases. “If you actually want to create global pandemics,” he warns, “then build factory farms.”15
But the coronavirus which makes horrible conditions throughout the earth have few potentialities to cause extreme harms like other viruses – in Wuhan the mortality rate was 2-4 per cent. That means, if 100 people are infected, 2-4 persons may die. But in the countries like Italy, the USA, and Britain the mortality rate is slightly higher. In cases of other infectious diseases, e.g., in case of SARS, the mortality rate was 10 per cent. The Spanish Flu of 1918-19 caused millions of deaths in the world and in that case the mortality rate was 5-20 per cent; in case of Avian Flu, it was 60 per cent and for Ebola, it was 90 per cent!16 If Ebola pervades whole of the world with such aggression like coronavirus, then the conditions would become veritable hell.
In 2015, the Ebola infections occurred in Guinea, a country of West Africa. But it initiated in 2010 in Sierra Leone and five years before that it was observed in other countries of West Africa. Guinea is a place for palm farming and palm oil (bio-diesel) is produced from palm trees. Small farmers were engaged in palm farming few decades ago. But soon arrived the giant companies. Forests were removed; mining operations and intensive farming was introduced. In fact, in the last few decades, almost ninety US companies expanded mining, bio-diesel production and intensive farming operations in Southeast Asia, Africa, and South America effecting rapid deforestation. With the US companies now came the British, French and Chinese companies. In the region where Ebola struck in Guinea, more than hundreds of thousands of hectare of land was leased out to multinationals. A company financed by European Investment Bank constructed a huge palm oil factory (four times larger than the former) in resent times. Now the strory is going along China’s way. Multinationals intruded into the dense forests; the agents of the multinationals (in most of the cases they are local people) collected wild animals from the forest. The natural habitat of bats was disrupted. The bats, attracted by the palm fruits made palm trees new habitat. Palm fruits and oil were mixed with the saliva and urine of the bats. Eblola epidemics ravaged.17 In 1976 Ebola struck Sudan too. Then it spread through cotton farming. (Ibid)
Similar incidents occurred in case of other viruses too. Nipah virus in Southeast Asia, Zika virus in Brazil, Avian Flu in Hong Kong in 1997 from large-scale poultry operations (where the chickens were cramped together in an utterly unhealthy conditions), SARS virus is Guangdong province of China in 2003, MARS infections in Saudi Arabia in 2012 where viruses spilled over from bats to camels, and then camels to human – the story is almost similar. In practice, the assault of neoliberal capitalism in the name of ‘development’ and ‘growth’ continued as massive tracts of rain-forests of Africa and South America was cleared. Between 2010-20, 3.9 billion hectare forests in Africa and 2.6 billion hectare of forests in South America had been vanished.18 As a result, the bio-diversity of the continents is gradually disrupted on a large scale. The natural life-cycles of the wild animals – which are great reservoirs of viruses – are greatly disturbed. Rate of infection by viruses is increased. Besides this, the methods of industrial farming implemented by the multinationals largely created a condition in which the viruses spill over from one animal to the other belonging to the same species and genome. Even the workers are infected from the animals. The giant animal farming in China, Thailand, Mexico, the USA become the main sources of pathogenic transmission.
It is notable in this context that by 5th May of this year, ten thousand workers of 170 meat processing firms in 29 states of the USA are infected by coronavirus and at least 45 workers have died. The firms are being running because of the President Trump himself invoked the 1950 Defense Production Act and designated the meatpacking plants as part of critical infrastructure in the United States.19 The lives of the workers are nothing to make profits.
But who is consuming the meat produced in a gigantic scale? Between 1961-2014, the consumption of meat was grown 12 fold. Consumption of pig meat grew by 4-5 times. Interestingly, wealthier persons consume more meat. In 2014, per capita consumption of meat per year in the world was 43 kg on an average. Indians eat meagre 4 kg meat per capita in a year. But the Australians consume per capita 116 kg, the north Americans 110 kg and the Europeans consume 80 kg per year.20 They consume so much meat that the scientists – to take proper ‘healthcare’ for them – advised the north Americans to eat 84 per cent and the Europeans 77 per cent less meat!21 Ironically, the people of the poorest countries die due to protein deficiency and undernourishment. In fact, it is the poorest people who pay the price for the over-consumption of meat and super-profits of the big meat corporations. More the animal firms, more will be the chances of infections through viruses. The capitalism which invests huge amount of capital in industrial farming, are now pointing fingers on oriental or poor people about their ‘inferior’ food-habits and culture. China ranks number one in the exports of poultry meat. In that same poultry industry, the US-based multinational Goldman Sacks invested huge capital.22 The US multinational Tyson is the biggest poultry company in the world. Smithfield Food invests huge amount of capital in the pig firms in Mexico. Maximum meat is consumed by the wealthy people and the big multinationals are investing in that meat businesses. Moreover, wild animals are caged in the personal zoos of the wealthy persons of the advanced capitalist countries where tigers, crocodiles, bears, primates, snakes, octopuses are displayed for fun. Still the leaders of the advanced capitalist countries make hue and cry claiming that the poor, ‘yellow’, ‘black’, Muslims and immigrants or refugees are spreading virus!
In fact, where the capitalism or ‘modern civilisation’ is developed more, the viruses or microbes are spreading faster there. In the end of the 1990s, it was reported that the Swine Flu was spreading in the Mexico; in fact, it was first emerged in the pig firms of North Carolina of the US – the chief of the US CDC himself acknowledged that fact.23 There are many instances that the viruses are originated in the advanced countries. The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918-19 was originated in Kansas of the USA.24 Besides America and Europe, the capitalist countries like China, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia, and others are becoming hotspots for emergent infectious diseases.
How are the viruses spreading so fast after originated in a particular country? The answer lies in the capitalist globalisation. The international airport of Wuhan of China is linked with 60 destinations of the world. In 2019, 515 million of international flights and in 2016, 51.6 million domestic flights were operated from Wuhan. In effect, Rome or Paris and London or New York are a few hours’ distance from Wuhan.25 Thousands of people are either going to Wuhan or coming out from that city every day for business purposes. It is notable further that the coronaviruses have spread to the countries integrated to three centres of the world. These centres are East Asia, West Europe and North America – which are mostly capitalised and globalised – and are interconnected to each other by the circuits of capital.26 Corona came to India along the circuits of capital. Therefore, the HIV virus of Central Africa, Nipah virus of Southeast Asia or the influenza viruses could travel thousands of kilometers easily in this globalised world. In fact, in the past, during the World War I, the Spanish Flu virus travelled along the path of movement of armies and resources and spread across the countries. In 541, the bubonic plague was transmitted through the ships along waterways; in the thirteenth century, plague was transmitted with Mughal expansions in the Eurasia. Even, the diseases like cholera, tuberculosis, small pox spread along the trade routes – either by shipping or land routes. There are innumerable examples of this transmission.27 Therefore, in this globalised world, there is no escape route from pandemics. For this reason, Marxists of the world called to the humanity: ‘ruin or revolution’.28
In the past, the earth was the habitat of numerous viruses; still the viruses are there; viruses will exist as long the earth survives. Bacteria, protozoa, etc will remain in this earth. In fact, the microbes are integral part of our life. For long, humans could not invent vaccines. In effect, they died due to contagious diseases. Then antibiotics, antivirals and vaccines were invented; or the humans could develop their immunity against the infectious diseases and survived thereby. In fact, viruses are neither ‘outsiders’, nor ‘intruders’, nor ‘invaders’ in our ecosystem. At present humans know not much of the numbers of microbes present in our ecosystem; their numbers are out of imagination probably. They were present in the past; they are still present in the wildlife, in pristine forests or in deep of the oceans. They choose their reservoirs as they like it. The humans and the domesticated animals too choose their respective habitats – different to each other, but closely interlinked. If this balance of the ecosystem is destructed by humans, they will certainly dig their own graves. In fact, the modern capitalism is doing the same thing – whether it may be of China-type or may be of US-type. Capitalism as a whole are polluting the environment, destructing it, and became a driving force of climate change. Droughts-floods-cyclones-bushfire, natural disasters are the inherent characteristics of the capitalism.
Some of the individual capitalists may exclaim how they harm the ecology of the planate; but in general, or capitalism as a system, with its never-ending greed for profit, never will recognise the imminence of the destruction of the ecology if the journey of capitalism is continued along the chartered path. But, it becomes extremely important to the proletariat and other people to think consciously about the relationship of humans with the ecology. Ecology is not an outside realm of human. In fact, humans are integral part of the ecology. Ecology is not a cake or good which will satisfy the consuming desires of humans. Humans could not expropriate it, nor they could destroy it. However, the present capitalism is doing the same thing. Marx wrote nearly 175 years ago: “At a certain stage in the evolution of the productive forces, we see the emergence of productive forces and means of trade which, under existing conditions, only cause disasters. They are no longer productive forces, but forces of destruction…”29
We do not know how much destruction is in wait for the working and poor people of the world. Will the humans survive in the long run or the capitalism will drag this planate to the verge of extinction – this is the cardinal question in today’s world.
Update Study Group, 25.05.2020
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