Close this search box.

Vice MAG Column: ‘When this pandemic is over, it’s time to dismantle capitalism’

By Nathalie Olah

Excerpt: Unless there’s a dramatic change in the next few days, the UK death toll from Coronavirus will outnumber Italy’s. This was something completely avoidable, something caused by government negligence through an ideology that undervalues human life.

But out of terrible tragedy comes an opportunity to learn, develop and build a world in which our carers are cared for, the vulnerable protected and human life prioritised above profit. In some ways, the seeds of this change have already been sewn. We have already seen the implementation of short-term policies unthinkable from a Tory government under any other circumstances, borrowing heavily from the Labour Party’s 2017 and 2019 manifestoes. The effort to provide shelter for the homeless, to provide the jobless with financial security, and to finally write-off the NHS debt, proves that these decisions were always political and never inevitable, as they were so often reported. As the economy continues to contract and the future for businesses seems uncertain, plunging millions into financial uncertainty under the shadow of immense grief, the timeframe in which these policies will need to remain in place stretches out indefinitely.

Pessimism is no way to live, but with economic resilience being tested to such negative effect, it would be foolish to maintain the status quo when so many other shocks stand ahead of us, and at a time when extreme weather events connected to climate change are happening more and more frequently.

Support for the left surged following the 2008 financial crisis and the subsequent installment of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition government in Downing Street, which saw the rollout of austerity across the country, an austerity that protected the wealthy and plunged millions of low-income households into despair. A younger generation watched as their dreams of higher education were decimated to pay for the recklessness of the banking sector. But where the left was lost in the wilderness prior to 2008, it has been steadily gaining ground in the years since. Millions of people are now alert to the possibility that another way is possible.

What’s more, where the response to the banking crisis suffered because of the abstract nature of what it was fighting against — financialisation, public/private collusion, and greed — there is no escaping the vivid consequences of a healthcare system that is unable to sustain the impact of a pandemic. Under austerity, the cost to human life was often hidden from view and difficult to measure. But with statistics coming in every single day showing the devastating — and personally terrifying — impact of having underfunded the NHS, and paid little heed to the appeals of its frontline staff, there is finally no escaping the fundamental flaw in the Conservative’s economic project.

What happens next is down to you to decide when the worst of this is over. I’m the last person to suggest that this is a time for respite or completing creative projects. But if you’re looking for reading material, consider turning to Stuart Hall, Mark Fisher, David Graeber, David Harvey, Ann Pettifor and Naomi Klein. Subscribe to Tribune, Jacobin, and certain corners of the Guardian. Let them guide your thinking and share them with your friends, while beginning the hard work of organising for a better future.