COOLIES or COOLIE LABORERS
[‘Coolie’ is a derogatory word derived from the Hindi word kuli as well as the Chinese word wuli which meant “bitter workers”.] Chinese workers who were intensely exploited and often treated virtually as slaves. (On occasion unskilled laborers of other nationalities have also been called “coolies”.)
Because of the worldwide anti-slavery movement during the 19th century, which largely ended the international slave trade by the middle part of that century (though slavery itself still existed in many countries), the capitalist exploiters of the world were casting about for new sources of extremely cheap labor to do the most onerous work. By the 1840s Chinese laborers were being brought to work on plantations, railroads, in mines and elsewhere in many regions of the world, including the United States, Hawaii [not yet grabbed by the U.S. though more and more controlled by U.S. businessmen], British Columbia, Cuba, Colombia, Peru, the Dutch East and West Indies, British Malaya, and South Africa. Between 250,000 and 500,000 Chinese workers emigrated to those countries from 1847 to 1874. Many more emigrated from China later and were similarly super-exploited.
COOPERATION — Evolution Of: Secondary Negative Aspects Of
Human beings are social creatures who have evolved both biologically and culturally to be highly cooperative in the way that we live. Overall, of course, this is a very positive thing. However, there may also be some secondary negative aspects to this. It is quite possible, for example, that our human tendencies toward tribalism, patriotism, and the ease with which our leaders get us to follow them—even when it is not in our own interests to do so—are also results of the way cooperation has evolved in humans and human society. To the degree that these things are true there must be serious and ongoing efforts (such as education in socialist society) to counteract these existing negative tendencies in human beings.
See also: HUME’S PARADOX
“[The article] ‘How to Build a Dog,’ by Lyudmila Trut and Lee Alan
Dugatkin, describes a decades-long experiment in Siberia in which foxes were selectively
bred for tameness, resulting in physical traits we associate with dogs. Turning a fox
into a dog certainly offers insight into how our ancestors tamed other animals. But
maybe it also tells us something about how we tamed ourselves, changing from apes to
“The authors describe juvenile facial characteristics as a component of the so-called domestication syndrome, and it does distinguish us from our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos. Further, docility is certainly necessary for large groups of humans to cooperate in urban environments, even if it also predisposes us to ‘follow the leader,’ for good or for ill.
“Fifty generations of foxes could be bred in a single person’s lifetime, whereas 50 generations of humankind still take us back only 1,500 years. How much have we been domesticating ourselves in the 10,000 years since agriculture and the first cities? Culture may be capable of driving biology faster than we realize.” —Philip Early, of Bainbridge Island, Washington, in a letter to the editor, Scientific American, Sept. 2017, p. 7.
[Mr. Early’s suggestion here seems quite plausable: that human beings became more social and cooperative at least in part because we continued juvenile features, incuding behaviors, into adulthood. (The retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood is called neoteny in biology.) But, alas, along with cooperation this may also include a tendency toward subservience, excessive tendencies to believe what we are told without question, and small-group thinking. To the extent that these tendencies actually exist within us, it is necessary to struggle ferociously against them, and to change our culture in order to do that. This, however, will almost certainly require a social revolution to fully accomplish. —S.H.]
COOPERATION — In Nature
[Intro material to be added... ]
See also: KROPOTKIN, Peter
“Of Darwin’s doctrine, I accept the theory of evolution, but assume Darwin’s method of verification (struggle for life, natural selection) to be merely a first, provisional, incomplete expression of a newly discovered fact. Before Darwin, the very people who now, wherever they look, see nothing but the struggle for existence (Vogt, Büchner, Moleshott and others), once laid particular stress on co-operation in organic nature, the way in which the plant kingdom supplies oxygen and food to the animal kingdom and, conversely, the latter supplies plants with carbonic acid and manure, as indicated notably by Liebig. Both conceptions are to some extent justified, but each is as one-sided and narrow as the other. The interaction of natural bodies—both dead and living—comprises harmony as well as strife, struggle as well as co-operation. Hence, if a self-styled naturalist takes it upon himself to subsume all the manifold wealth of historical development under the one-sided and meagre axiom ‘struggle for existence’, a phrase which, even in the field of nature, can only be accepted cum grano salis [with a grain of salt], his method damns itself from the outset.” —Engels, Letter to Pyotr Lavrov, November 12-17, 1875, MECW 45:106-7.
Being absorbed or assimiliated into a group or into a new ideological perspective. Sometimes the meaning is innocuous, as in “she was co-opted into the central committee”, where it just means that the person was brought into an existing central committee as a new member. But often the term implies a sinister intent on the part of those doing the co-opting, such as in effect bribing someone to change their ideas. Thus the capitalist ruling class co-opts many young activists into its ideological perspective and system of governance through such means as offering them paid jobs in political or social work, offering them respect and acclaim as authors if they say “acceptable” things, etc. So being “co-opted” in this sense means essentially the same thing as being bought off.
COPENHAGEN INTERPRETATION (of Quantum Mechanics)
The absurdly idealist philosophical interpretation of quantum mechanics put forth by Niels Bohr, Werner Heisenberg, and their supporters. According to this bizarre conception, there is no such thing as an objective world until it is perceived (or “measured”) by someone. Heisenberg, for example, stated that “Some physicists would prefer to come back to the idea of an objective real world whose smallest parts exist objectively in the same sense as stones or trees exist independently of whether we observe them. This however is impossible.” Another physicist, David Mermin of Cornell University, under the spell of the Copenhagen Interpretation even went so far as to claim: “We now know that the moon is demonstrably not there when nobody looks.” It is difficult to believe that anyone can seriously put forward such nonsense!
In response to this sort of foolishness, Albert Einstein commented: “The belief in an external world independent of the perceiving subject is the basis of all natural science.” And he added, more specifically, that “The Heisenberg-Bohr tranquilizing philosophy—or religion?—is so delicately contrived that, for the time being, it provides a gentle pillow for the true believer from which he cannot very easily be aroused. So let him lie there.” [All these quotations are taken from Nick Herbert, Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics (1987).]
See also: COMPLEMENTARITY, EINSTEIN-PODOLSKY-ROSEN THOUGHT EXPERIMENT, SCHRÖDINGER’S CAT, WAVE FUNCTION
“Despite the fact that every physicist agrees that quantum physics works, a bitter debate has raged over its meaning for the past ninety years, since the theory was first developed. And one position in that debate—held by the majority of physicists and puportedly by Bohr—has continually denied the very terms of the debate itself. These physicists claim that it is somehow inappropriate or unscientific to ask what is going on in the quantum realm, despite the phenomenal success of the theory. To them, the theory needs no interpretation, because the things that the theory describes aren’t truly real.” —Adam Becker, What Is Real? The Unfinished Quest for the Meaning of Quantum Mechanics, (NY: Basic Books, 2018), p. 5.
“It seems we all face a fundamental paradox in that it’s impossible to
think about the universe except in terms of its relation to humans. You can’t make sense
of language or even scientific laws or mathematics, without the concept of an observer,
and yet at the same time we know perfectly well that humans are a very late addition: the
universe was here long before us and will be here long after us.” —Michael Frayn, quoted
in “All the World’s a Stage”, New Scientist, Sept. 23, 2006.
[First of all, it is not “impossible to think about the universe except in terms of its relation to humans”! Frayn does this himself in this very paragraph when he mentions that the universe existed long before humanity came to be, and will exist long after us. What is no doubt really going on here is the perverse influence of the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics which insists on inserting human perception of the world as a necessary aspect of it. Some people cannot recognize a reduction to absurdity when it slaps them in the face! —S.H.]
COPERNICUS [KOPERNIK], Nikolaus (1473-1543)
Great Polish astronomer who founded the modern heliocentric conception of the solar system.
CORNFORTH, Maurice (1909-1980)
British Marxist philosopher who—although a lifelong member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, a totally revisionist party at least from 1950 on—wrote some very useful works on philosophy. After graduating from University College, London, in 1929, he was awarded a research scholarship at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was the only student in a specialized course in logic taught by G.E. Moore, R.B. Braithwaite, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. Cornforth’s first stance in philosophy was that of the early linguistic analysis style as a follower of Wittgenstein. This background provided him with the basis for his much later Marxist critique of bourgeois analytic philosophy in his book Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy (1965).
Cornforth joined the Communist Party in 1931 and set up the party’s first organization at Cambridge. He gradually developed into one of the leading ideologists of the CPGB, especially in philosophy. For example, after World War II he strongly criticized the aesthetic and philosophical views of the vaguely semi-Marxist writer Christopher Caudwell, who had become something of an influential figure in “Left” circles in the years after his death in 1937 while fighting in Spain against the fascists. From 1950 to 1975 Cornforth was also the managing director of Lawrence & Wishart, the CPGB publishing house, where he was responsible for launching the massive effort to publish the 50-volume edition of Marx and Engels Collected Works. (Unfortunately, after the collapse of the CPGB, Lawrence & Wishart became just another bourgeois company and notoriously demanded that the Marxist Internet Archive remove the digital portions of the MECW which they had made freely available online.)
Cornforth published his first major work, Science Versus Idealism in 1946, which as its subtitle states was “an examination of ‘pure empiricism’ and modern logic”. It provides a history of empiricism and criticizes a large variety of empiricist theories including those of Hume, Kant and Mach, Bertrand Russell’s “Logical Atomism”, Wittgenstein, “Logical Positivism” and the Vienna Circle, etc. Another book, In Defense of Philosophy appeared in 1950, and is similarly focused on criticisms of empiricist philosophical theories including not only positivism but also its pragmatist variety as in William James, etc. A more general work, the Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics appeared in 1952. Though this is now a somewhat dated volume which is heavy on the views of Stalin and has nothing by Mao, it is still valuable.
Cornforth’s most important work is his 3-volume set Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction. The best of this set, Materialism and the Dialectical Method first appeared in 1953, and the 4th revised edition came out in 1968. It is a good introduction to many topics, such as idealism vs. materialism, the Marxist concept of metaphysics, mechanical materialism, and the Marxist philosophy of dialectical materialism in general. Even though the revisionist CPGB was quite hostile to Mao and Maoism after the “Sino-Soviet Split”, Cornforth continued in this work to put forth some of the important contributions by Mao to dialectics. The second volume in this series, Historical Materialism has some good material, but is more strongly infected with a revisionist outlook, especially in the last two chapters. The third volume, The Theory of Knowledge also has some good material in it. Another useful and important book by Cornforth is his reply to Karl Popper’s spurious attacks on Marxism: The Open Philosophy and the Open Society (1968).
• Food and Farming for Victory, Communist Party Pamphlet (1942)
• Science Versus Idealism: An Examination of “Pure Empiricism” and Modern Logic (1946). Online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/Britain/CPGB-Books/ScienceAndIdealism-Cornforth-1946.pdf [Searchable PDF format: 18,498 KB]
• Dialectical Materialism and Science (1949; 68 pages). Online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/Britain/CPGB-Pamphlets/DialecticalMaterialismAndScience-Cornforth-1949.pdf
• In Defense of Philosophy — Against Positivism and Pragmatism (1950)
• Science for Peace and Socialism (c.1950) with J. D. Bernal
• Readers’ Guide to the Marxist Classics (1952). Online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/Britain/ReadersGuideToMarxistClassics-1952.pdf
• Dialectical Materialism: An Introduction (3 vols.)
— Materialism & the Dialectical Method (1953; 4th rev. ed. 1968). A somewhat poor scan of the 4th edition is at: https://archive.org/details/MaterialismDialecticalMethod
— Historical Materialism (1954; 2nd rev. ed. 1962) A pretty good scan (but with a few marginal notes) is online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/Britain/CPGB-Books/HistoricalMaterialism-Cornforth-2ndEd-1962.pdf [Searchable PDF format: 8,986 KB]
— Theory of Knowledge (1955; 3rd rev. ed. 1963) A somewhat poor scan of the 3rd edition is at: https://archive.org/details/CornforthTheoryOfKnowledge
• Rumanian Summer: A View of the Rumanian People’s Republic (1953), co-author with Jack Lindsay. Online at: https://archive.org/details/RumanianSummer
• “On the Theory of Socialist Revolution”, article in Marxist Quarterly, July 1956. Seems to accept Khrushchev’s total denunciation of Stalin at face value. Online at: https://www.marxists.org/archive/cornforth/1956/theory-revolution.htm
• Philosophy for Socialists (1959)
• Marxism and the Linguistic Philosophy (1965; 2nd ed. 1967) ISBN 0853151199, online at: https://www.bannedthought.net/MLM-Theory/Diamat/Analytic-LinguisticPhilosophy/MarxismAndTheLinguisticPhilosophy-Cornforth-1967-OCR-sm.pdf [Searchable PDF format: 8,004 KB]
• The Open Philosophy and the Open Society: A Reply to Dr. Karl Popper’s Refutations of Marxism (1968) ISBN 0853153841 Online at: https://archive.org/details/CornforthOpenPhil
• Communism and Human Values (1972) ISBN 0717803783
• Rebels and Their Causes: Essays in honour of A. L. Morton (1978), editor ISBN 0853154805
• Communism & Philosophy: Contemporary Dogmas and Revisions of Marxism (1980) ISBN 0853154309
CORONA VIRUS (or CORONAVIRUS)
1. [Strictly speaking:] One class of viruses, so named because of their spikes around a central spherical core which makes them look like the sun’s corona or like a crown. Many of the viruses causing ailments like the common cold and the flu (influenza) are corona viruses, as are the viruses which cause SARS, MERS and Covid-19.
2. [Specifically, or more loosely speaking:] The SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the Covid-19 disease.
The debt owed by an individual corporation, or else by all the corporations in a given country or given industry.
Why would a corporation, which has been making profits and which expects to continue to exist as a profit-making entity, ever go into debt? Well of course there may be periods, such as during a recession, when its profits do not cover its expenses, and therefore when it needs to borrow money in order to “tide it over” until conditions improve and it resumes making profits once again. Similarly, an individual corporation may find that its product line has fallen out of favor with consumers and that it needs to borrow money to re-tool or build a new factory to produce some new or improved line of commodities. But interestingly enough, most corporate debt is not taken on for rational reasons such as these. Instead, in modern capitalism a huge amount of debt is often amassed by companies in order buy other companies, or even for such rather frivolous reasons as to buy back part of their own public stock! (This last option leads to personal profits for the corporate managers and the other owners of that stock by driving up the stock price. It amounts to a method of looting the company.)
You might think that corporations, which after all often pull in enormous profits from their customers, might generally be flush with cash, and in numerous cases they are. (See CORPORATIONS—Cash Hoards Of below.) But in many other cases companies have not retained their profits as a cash cushion, or have blown it on unwise acquistions, or have simply been looted by banks, financial institutions, and so-called “private equity” pirate operations. In these cases the corporations are themselves very vulnerable if the economy should weaken or develop into a recession. And if a number of large corporations fail during an economic crisis, that crisis can then be greatly intensified. This perfectly describes the situation at present (2018): a great many U.S. corporations are now quite vulnerable if a new financial crisis and/or economic downturn should occur, despite the fact that corporate profit rates at present are still near historic highs.
“Among corporations listed on the S&P 500 [stock] index, debt has
tripled since 2010 to one and a half times annual earnings—near the historic peaks
reached during the recessions of the early 1990s and 2000s. And in some parts of the
bond markets, debt loads are much higher.
“One of the big corporate debt risks is developing largely beyond regulatory oversight. Some United States companies that were publicly traded in 2008 have since gone private, often precisely in order to avoid intensified scrutiny from regulators. Many of those companies were purchased by private equity firms in deals that left the companies saddled with huge debts. Right now the typical American company owned by a private equity firm has debt six times higher than its annual earnings—or twice the level that a public ratings agency would consider high risk or ‘junk’.” —Ruchir Sharma, Chief Global Strategist at Morgan Stanley Investment Management, a big Wall Street firm, New York Times, Sept. 19, 2018, p. A-19.
CORPORATE DEBT — As a Percentage of GDP
The two largest economies in the world at present are China and the U.S. Both of them (along with virtually all other countries in this capitalist world) have been increasing debt in all its forms, government debt, consumer debt, and business debt. Indeed, doing so is the only way that capitalism can function at all in between its horrendous overproduction crises.
In the chart at the right we see that China’s non-financial corporate debt is even greater than America’s, and has been growing much faster. On the other hand, the Chinese ruling class has a tighter control over its corporations (private as well as public), and its economy, and can probably get away with a higher level of business debt. Nevertheless, the corporate debt load in both countries is obviously getting ever more dangerously high. And endlessly growing debt bubbles like this always pop in the end, in the form of very serious financial crises.
CORPORATE STOCK BUY-BACKS
See: STOCK BUY-BACKS
CORPORATE TAXES [U.S.]
“How much tax do corporations pay? In theory, their top tax
rate is 35 percent—one of the highest in the world. In reality, most U.S. companies
pay far less by exploiting tax breaks and loopholes. Of the 500 major companies in
the S&P 500 stock index, 115 paid a tax rate of less than 20 percent over the past
five years. Nearly 40 paid less than 10 percent. Boeing, for example, paid 4.5
percent in taxes on its profits over the past five years, Southwest Airlines paid
6.3 percent, and Yahoo paid 7 percent, according to research firm Capital IQ. General
Electric, one of America’s largest corporations, reportedly will pay little or no
federal tax on its $14.2 billion in global profits for 2010.
“Has it always been this way? No. As a result of the loopholes and deductions added to the byzantine tax code in recent decades, corporations pay a far smaller share of total U.S. taxes than they once did. In the 1950s, Washington collected 30 percent of all its federal revenue from business taxes. Last year, it was just 9 percent.” —The Week [a bourgeois news magazine], Sept. 2, 2011, p. 13.
[Of course it is only liberals who argue about whether corporate taxes are “too low” or not; Marxist revolutionaries don’t think capitalist corporations should exist at all. —S.H.]
“Corporations are paying the lowest level of taxes in four decades. Last year companies paid taxes of just 12.1 percent on their U.S. profits, the lowest share since at least 1972 and far lower than the 25.6 percent they paid on average from 1987 to 2008.” —A Wall Street Journal report quoted in The Week, Feb. 17, 2012, p. 38.
“2/3 of US companies pay no federal income tax (and that was true even before Trump and Congress slashed corporate tax rates).” —Mailing from Mother Jones magazine, Dec. 28, 2018.
See also: TAX LAWYERS, TAX LOOPHOLES, INVERSIONS
See also below, and: “DEAD PEASANTS INSURANCE”
“I hope we shall ... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our
monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of
strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.” —Thomas Jefferson,
letter to George Logan, Nov. 12, 1816; online at:
[The first stage of operation of corporations may have been to defy the laws of the nation; but the later stage is to buy the politicians to make those laws. —S.H.]
CORPORATION — As a “Person”
In 1886 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad Company that a corporation has some of the same legal rights as a person, a human being, has. Since then this absurd doctrine has been expanded by the courts as well as in actual practice to cover other legal rights of persons under the U.S. Constitution. At present this has reached the point where corporations now ridiculously claim to have the right of “free speech”, and thus supposedly cannot be prevented from spending millions of dollars to promote politicians who are in their pocket, nor from indoctrinating the public with reactionary ideas and opinions that suit them. Corporate capitalism already essentially controls the U.S. and the world, but this is not enough for them. They want to keep expanding their control and power until it is absolute, and the masses have no say whatsoever. Thus one liberal bourgeois constitutional scholar, Garrett Epps, after attending Supreme Court hearings in 2009, expressed the opinion that some Justices (such as John Roberts and Antonin Scalia) now seem to feel that corporations do not simply enjoy the same rights as persons, but rather that they actually enjoy greater rights than mere people do!
“Corporations are people, my friend!” —Mitt Romney, leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, while campaigning in Iowa, Aug. 11, 2011.
CORPORATIONS — Cash Hoards Of
During good economic times and booms, capitalist corporations do not generally keep huge amounts of cash on hand, beyond what is needed for ordinary operating expenses and a reserve fund for exceptional situations. Instead, they typically use their excess money to invest in the expansion of production or else to pay off existing debt.
However, at the present time there is a still-developing long-term overproduction crisis in the U.S. and world capitalist economies. In this situation most corporations can already produce all the goods they can sell with their existing factories and machinery and have no reason at all to expand production to any greater excess over what they have already done. Moreover, many of them have either little debt or else only have long-term, low-interest debt, which does not need to be paid off soon. Furthermore, as of 2014 corporate profits are at or near record levels. In this situation U.S. corporations are accumulating ever-greater hoards of cash which they simply do not know what to do with! (Many, however, have been resorting to massive stock buy-backs, to keep their piles of cash from growing quite so fast.)
In the chart at the right we see the rapid accumulation of cash by American non-financial corporations over the last few years. (This does not include the huge piles of money that banks and financial institutions have also accumulated, let alone the trillions of dollars which the Federal Reserve has created and made available to banks in its programs of quantitative easing.)
The Economist noted in its caption for this chart that:
“Corporate America is holding $1.73 trillion in cash, with the top five companies hoarding almost half a trillion between them, according to a report published by Moody’s Investor Services. The firm estimates $1.1 trillion (or 64%) of the total is being held abroad, a 16% increase on the previous year, as companies choose to take advantage of cheap borrowing costs at home to fund their spending, rather than face the tax bill when repatriating profits. Technology firms are increasingly responsible for this stockpiling of money. Tech companies now hold $690 billion in cash between them, more than double their 2009 holdings, and 40% of the total. Apple alone holds $178 billion.” [May 16, 2015, p. 85.]
“By the Numbers:
“... 2.5 trillion dollars: [The] estimated value of untaxed cash held overseas by US companies—equivalent to almost 14 percent of the country’s GDP, according to CNBC.” —Miguel Salazar, The Nation, Sept. 25/Oct. 2, 2017, p. 4. [Thus an additional reason for the giant corporate cash hoards which are kept overseas is to avoid taxes on profits if they are repatriated to the U.S. —Ed.]
CORPORATIONS — Extravagances Of
More and more of the world’s wealth is being captured by the giant multinational corporations. This continues to be true even while the long-developing world capitalist overproduction crisis intensifies, which means that many big corporations are awash in huge cash hoards that they don’t know what to do with. (See entry above.) This has led a number of them into a trend of creating enormously wasteful monuments to themselves, on a par with the giant pyramids of the ancient Egyptian pharaohs. The picture at the right is of the new enormously expensive Apple Corporation headquarters now under construction in Silicon Valley (California), which is in the shape of a giant space ship.
“Several months before he died in 2011, Steve Jobs, Apple’s founder
and the mastermind of the project, predicted that the spaceship-like structure would
become ‘the best office building in the world’ and that people from everywhere would
travel to see it.
“To prove Jobs right, around 13,000 construction workers have labored for years behind thick, high walls. The site spans several city blocks. Earlier this year, everything was hidden from view except cranes and a huge sand pile that rose a few hundred feet high, like the Great Pyramid of Giza. The scale of the project rivals the ancient Egyptians’ monuments. Every piece of glass on the four-storey exterior is curved, requiring special panes to be made in Germany—the largest pieces of curved glass ever manufactured. With a price tag of around $5 billion, it may be the most expensive corporate headquarters in history.”
—“Versailles in the Valley: The World’s mightiest technology firms are building monuments to their success”, The Economist: 1843, April-May 2016, p. 35. [Can you imagine how many starving children’s lives could be saved if Apple had instead donated this $5 billion to alieviate world hunger? We are sure that thought never occurred to the criminal bourgeois hero, Steve Jobs. —Ed.]
CORPORATIONS — Shareholders Of
It is commonly supposed that the shareholders of a corporation, i.e., those who own the shares in the corporation, are thereby those who own and control the corporation itself, including its assets and its profits. This is largely a myth in the modern Anglo-American capitalist world, as the excerpts below from a letter published in the Economist magazine make clear.
“The notion that shareholders ‘own’ the corporation is in most important
respects wrong and needs careful qualification. Institutional investors (commonly referred
to as shareholders) in publicly traded corporations under Anglo-American jurisdictions are
in many fundamental respects different from the shareholders of private and untraded
“They do not and cannot, because of limited liability, own the assets of the corporation....
“The corporation owns its assets and the board [of directors] manages these assets. The only thing the shareholders own is a conditional claim on the profits of the corporation, depending ultimately on the board as to what dividend, if any, the corporation declares. The only ultimate sanction they have is to sell and buy [shares] elsewhere.
“The problem with the boards of publicly traded corporations is that they have too much unaccountable power. Because the boards are unitary in structure there is no proper or effective independent governance. The scale of cronyism is both wider and deeper than [the Economist] cares to admit.” —Richard Tudway, London, letter to the Economist, published Sept. 6, 2014, p. 22.
CORRECTION [In bourgeois finance]
A substantial fall in a stock market, or other financial market, after a previous large run up in average prices. Often a fall of 10% in these circumstances is considered to be a “correction”. The general assumption of speculators is that this correction will soon reverse itself and the “bull” market will resume.
The extra-legal expropriation of wealth by some group or individuals (usually capitalists and their servants) for their own benefit and personal aggrandizement. Corruption is officially regarded as an evil in bourgeois society because it degrades the credibility of the system in the eyes of the proletariat (and in some cases even destabilizes and threatens the viability of the system itself). Corruption is supposed to be “policed” by various regulatory and investigative bodies of the state. However, in the era of monopoly-finance capitalism, the large enterprises and banks have become so powerful that most “punishments” they receive are effectively little more than slaps on the wrist designed to placate public hostility. Occasionally, however, some capitalist or servant of capitalism is convicted of a particularly brazen crime and much fanfare is devoted to the need for subsequent reforms intended to “prevent” people like this from being empowered. Of course, corruption—and the personalities that partake in it!—are themselves organic outgrowths of the basic relations of production in capitalist society, and are another manifestation of how capitalists become “the embodiment of capital”. —L.C.
“It is hard to say which has sunk lower in the last three years, the monarchy or the republic. The monarchy—on the continent of Europe, at least—is everywhere assuming its final form. Caesarism, at an increasing pace. Everywhere sham constitutionalism with universal suffrage, an overgrown army as the buttress of government, bribery and corruption as the chief means of government, and enrichment through corruption and fraud as the sole end of government, are irresistibly undermining all the splendid constitutional guarantees, the artificial balance of forces of which our bourgeois dreamt in the idyllic days of Louis Philippe, when even the most corrupt were still angels of innocence compared with the ‘great men’ of today. As the bourgeoisie daily loses the character of a class temporarily indispensable in the social organism, shedding its specific social functions to become a mere gang of swindlers, its state turns into an institution for the protection, not of production, but of the overt theft of products.... The republic, however, is not faring any better.” —Engels, “The Republic in Spain” (Feb. 1873), MECW 23:417. [We wonder what Engels would have thought of the vastly more extreme corruption in America today, when Wall Street swindlers control the government and have been literally able to loot it and the public of trillions of dollars over the past few years!]
CORRUPTION — Political
“In the last days of the [parliamentary] session, which ended on Saturday, the Lower House was concerned almost exclusively with election scandals, which have sprung up like mushrooms out of the ground and covered every wall of the Houses of Parliament. There was a fearful stench of corruption, which harmonized excellently with the odors of the Thames and would have nauseated the honorable members if they had not been accustomed to such things. In some cases it was a question of individuals who had bought or sold herds of British voters openly (and that was the offence) like so many herds of sheep...” —From the “Political Review” section of Das Folk, Aug. 19, 1859, MECW 16:637. [This German-language newspaper was published in London and was at this time under the editorship of Marx, who may have written this item.]
Unpaid labor which feudal serfs or peasants are forced to supply for whatever purposes a feudal landlord demands. The amount of such corvée labor required is most often a traditional arrangement (such as so many days/month). Corvée labor is one form of rent which peasants pay the landlord, and for that reason it is also known as “labor rent”.
See: BIG BANG THEORY
A high-energy particle which comes from the Sun or else from beyond the Solar System and which strikes the upper atmosphere of the Earth (and sometimes the surface). The Earth’s magnetic field shields our planet’s surface from most cosmic rays.
A parameter which Albert Einstein added to his equations in general relativity theory which, if it is just the precisely correct value, does not allow the universe to expand.
The theory or claim that on the large scale the universe is the same everywhere else as it is here where we human beings are. Although this is a reasonable hypothesis, and there is some considerable evidence for it, it is by no means absolutely certain.
“The most distant and ancient signals we have observed so far are the
cosmic microwaves, the signal primeval. We believe that they began their journey 14
billion years ago, and when we look at them (using a microwave camera), we see the way
the universe looked back then. Of course, that light (microwaves are low-frequency
light) is showing us what existed both a long time ago and very far away; it traveled
14 billion light-years of distance to reach us.
“To say we are looking back in time, we have to make the assumption that the distant universe, 14 billion years ago, was very similar to what our nearby part of the universe was like back then.... [T]hat postulate is given a fancy name: the cosmological principle. Specifically, it asserts that the universe is homogeneous (like homogenized milk; it is uniform in composition without big lumps) and isotropic (no special directions; no large scale organized motion; it isn’t, for example, spinning). If you don’t want other people to realize that you are making a drastic assumption, call it a principle. Cosmological principle is an awesome name; if you called it the raisin bread model, it wouldn’t be so compelling....
“There is good evidence that the cosmological principle is roughly true, at least true enough for our purposes. As we look around the universe, particularly nearby, we find things that are very similar to those in our neighborhood. We are in the Milky Way Galaxy..., but there seem to be huge numbers of similar galaxies out there, spread out and spreading further throughout space. Pick a small region of sky and, using our best telescopes, count the galaxies and extrapolate to the regions unexamined, and you conclude that there are over a hundred billion visible galaxies—most with fewer stars than our Milky Way has.”
—Richard A. Muller, Now: The Physics of Time (2016), pp.136-7. Muller is a well-known bourgeois American physicist.
1. [Ideally, and hopefully really fully the case eventually:] A specialized branch of astronomical science studying and describing the structure and changing nature of the universe, especially on the largest scale.
2. [A secondary branch of metaphysics (in the bourgeois sense of that word)], which is now slowly moving in the direction of becoming more of a real science even though it still has a large admixture of religious and idealist philosophical assumptions included within it.
See also: “BIG BANG THEORY”,
A term of derision for fully consistent internationalists, used primarily by those (including Stalin) who seek to combine nationalism and Marxism.
[To be added...]
COST OF LIVING INDEX
See: CONSUMER PRICE INDEX
COUNCIL FOR MUTUAL ECONOMIC AID (CMEA)
An intergovernmental council, known familiarly as Comecon, originally set up in January 1949 by the USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland and Romania, to promote mutual trade and the coordination of the economic plans of the member countries. Even during the Stalin era the organization tended to serve the economic interests of the Soviet Union more so than any of the other member countries. (This was an aspect of the “great nation chauvinism” that Stalin was sometimes guilty of.) But in the revisionist period in the Soviet Union (mid-50s on) Comecon became more and more simply a means for the social-imperialists to exploit the other nominally socialist countries under their thumb. This occurred through bullied and unfair trade agreements, international planning decisions more favorable to the development of the Soviet Union than to the other countries, and so forth.
Albania joined CMEA in February 1949, East Germany (the German Democratic Republic) in 1950, Mongolia in 1962, Cuba in 1972 and Vietnam in 1978. Yugoslavia became an associate member in 1964. In the late 1950s North Korea and China acquired observer status, though after 1961 China no longer sent observers. After 1961 Albania also no longer participated. Romania weakened its connection to Comecon in 1973 and moved closer to the European Community.
Comecon was initially hailed by supporters of the Soviet Union as “the Russian Marshall Plan”. In its early days it did help to develop the economies of the Eastern European countries. Besides developing general goals for trade and technical assistance, Comecon organized joint scientific research and development.
In 1954 Comecon moved more in the direction of economic integration of the member countries through the coordination of the various five-year economic plans, and in 1955 production priorities were set for each country. Energy policies were also coordinated. In 1961 “Basic Principles” for the long-term development of member countries were drawn up. But Khrushchev’s proposals in 1962 for the creation of a single economic plan and single planning authority for all the countries was rejected by the other Comecon countries on the grounds that it was a major encroachment on their national sovereignty. Romania was especially outraged by the Soviet “suggestion” that it should specialize in agriculture instead of any all-round development of its economy.
In the Brezhnev era the Soviet social-imperialists further stepped up their efforts to integrate the Comecon economies under Soviet direction, but there was much resistance to this from all the countries except Bulgaria whose lacky rulers seemed happy with its assigned agricultural role.
In 1963 Comecon set up the International Bank for Economic Cooperation as an alternative to the IMF, and in 1970 the International Investment Bank to finance projects that were part of coordinated five-year plans, and as an alternative to the World Bank.
The Comecon countries agreed in 1970 to medium and long-term economic cooperation up to 1980, and a central planning bureau was set up in Moscow to direct this. In 1987 joint Comecon ventures between some productive enterprises and research institutes in the USSR and Eastern European countries were established. But the still crude forms of economic cooperation were illustrated by the fact that profits from these joint enterprises could be returned in the form of commodities because of the problems involved in currency negotiations. Overall, trade and economic cooperation and integration within Comecon declined during the Gorbachev period.
By 1989 the increasingly market-oriented ideology in all the Comecon countries led to many calls for less economic planning, and there no longer seemed much point to CMEA to the revisionists. In June 1991 CMEA was formally dissolved.
See also: “INTERNATIONAL DIVISION OF LABOR”, “INTERNATIONAL SOCIALIST OWNERSHIP”, “STRUCTURAL INTEGRATION”, TRANSFERABLE RUBLE
COUNCIL OF TRENT (1545-1563)
An important council of the Roman Catholic Church attempting to deal with the then developing Protestant Reformation. Among the important decisions was that only the Church authorities had the “right” to interpret the “Holy Scriptures”. While we revolutionary Marxists don’t care at all about the Bible or other religious foolishness, we do have our own analogous issue to consider: Who has the “right” to interpret the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist classics? See: INTERPRETATION—OF MLM TEXTS for a brief discussion of this topic.
“Stunned by the Protestant Reformation fomented in Germany around 1517, the
Roman Church struck a defensive posture throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries
called the Counter-Reformation. The Church hoped quickly to close the rift that had split
Protestantism from Catholicism by convening an ecumenical council, but intrigues and obstacles
of all sorts—including disputes over where to stage the event—postponed the meeting for
many years, while the rift continued to widen. Finally, Pope Paul III ... convened bishops,
cardinals, and leaders of religious orders at Trent, where Italy bordered the Holy Roman
Empire of the German nation. On and off over a period of eighteen years, from 1545 to 1563,
the Council of Trent debated and voted and ultimately drafted a series of decrees. These
dictated how the clergy were to be educated, for example, and who was empowered to interpret
Holy Scripture. Rejecting Martin Luther’s insistence on the right to a personal reading of
the Bible, the council declared in 1546 that ‘no one, relying on his own judgment and
distorting the Sacred Scriptures according to his own conceptions, shall dare to interpret
“After the council finally concluded the twenty-five sessions of its long-drawn-out deliberations, its decrees became Church doctrine through a series of papal bulls (so named for the bulla, or round lead seal, affixed to pronouncements from the pope himself). In 1564, the year Galileo was born, certain important points from the debates were formulated into a profession of faith, worded by the Council of Trent and solemnly sworn over the ensuing decades by untold numbers of Church officials and other Catholics:
“‘I most firmly accept and embrace the Apostolic and ecclesiastical traditions and the other observances and constitutions of the Church. I also accept Sacred Scripture in the sense in which it has been held, and is held, by Holy Mother Church, to whom it belongs to judge the true sense and interpretation of the Sacred Scripture, nor will I accept or interpret it in any way other than in accordance with the unamimous agreement of the Fathers.’”
—Dava Sobel, Galileo’s Daughter (NY: Penguin, 2000), pp. 71-72.
COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS
An American ruling class organization made up of prominent businessmen and bourgeois policy makers “which played a key role in shaping the Cold War consensus” in the United States. The Wall Street lawyer and long-term top U.S. government official, Elihu Root, took the lead in setting up this supposedly non-government organization in 1921. In 1945 Allen Dulles, American spy and future head of the CIA, was elected its president. That should tell you all you need to know about the nature of this organization.
As part of its on-going attempt to unite all “important people” around the general U.S. ruling class perspective the Council publishes the influential bi-monthly magazine Foreign Affairs.
1. [In bourgeois society:] Opposition to social revolution, and defense of the oppressive and unjust status quo.
2.The replacement of one socioeconomic formation with another, lower one (or attempts to do so). This implies a return to an earlier, more oppressive form of society, and hence a change which is very much against the interests of the people. After every successful revolution the forces of counter-revolution must be contended with, and suppressed. (See: DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT )
COUNTER-REVOLUTIONARIES — Suppression Of
“Without the system of democratic centralism, the proletarian dictatorship cannot be consolidated. To practise democracy among the people and to practise dictatorship over the enemies of the people, these two aspects are inseparable. When these two aspects are combined, this is then proletarian dictatorship, or it may be called people’s democratic dictatorship. Our slogan is: ‘A people’s democratic dictatorship, led by the proletariat, and based on the alliance of the workers and peasants.’ How does the proletariat exercise leadership? It leads through the Communist Party. The Communist Party is the vanguard of the proletariat. The proletariat unites with all classes and strata who approve of, support and participate in the socialist revolution and socialist construction, and exercises dictatorship over the reactionary classes or the remnants thereof. In our country the system of exploitation of man by man has already been eliminated. The economic foundations of the landlord class and the bourgeoisie have been eliminated. The reactionary classes are now no longer as ferocious as hitherto. For example, they are no longer as ferocious as in 1949 when the People’s Republic was founded, nor as ferocious as in 1957 when the right-wing bourgeoisie madly attack us. Therefore we speak of them as the remnants of the reactionary classes. But we may on no account underestimate these remnants. We must continue to struggle against them. The reactionary classes which have been overthrown are still planning a come-back. In a socialist society, new bourgeois elements may still be produced. During the whole socialist stage there still exist classes and class struggle, and this class struggle is a protracted, complex, sometimes even violent affair. Our instruments of dictatorship should not be weakened; on the contrary they should be strengthened. Our security system is in the hands of comrades who follow the correct line. It is possible that the security departments in some places may be in the hands of bad people. There are also some comrades engaged on security work who do not rely on the masses or on the Party. In the work of purging counter-revolutionaries, they do not follow the line of purging them with the help of the masses under the leadership of the Party committee. They rely solely on secret work, on so-called professional work. Professional work is necessary; it is absolutely necessary to use the methods of detection and trial to deal with counter-revolutionary elements, but the most important thing is to carry out the mass line under the leadership of the Party committee. When we are concerned with dictatorship over the whole reactionary class, it is especially important to rely on the masses and the Party. To exercise dictatorship over the reactionary classes does not mean that we should totally eliminate all reactionary elements, but rather that we should eliminate the classes to which they belong. We should use appropriate methods to remold them and transform them into new men. Without a broad people’s democracy, proletarian dictatorship cannot be consolidated and political power would be unstable. Without democracy, without the mobilization of the masses, without mass supervision, it will be impossible to exercise effective dictatorship over the reactionary and bad elements, and it will be impossible effectively to remold them. Thus they would continue to make trouble and might still stage a come-back. This problem demands vigilance, and I hope comrades will give a great deal of thought to this too.” —Mao, “Talk at an Enlarged Central Work Conference”, Jan. 30, 1962; in Chairman Mao Talks to the People: Talks and Letters: 1956-1971 (1974), ed. by Stuart Schram, pp. 167-9.
1. The erroneous theory in bourgeois so-called “political science” that there are generally two or more centers of political power in society which oppose each other and serve as “balances” or countervailing forces toward each other. This notion is directly opposed to the Marxist view of the state as virtually always being totally dominated by one or another social class to the point where it can only be viewed as the dictatorship of that ruling class. Of course, in modern society a relatively tiny ruling class such as the bourgeoisie must deny that it is exercising a dictatorship and try to pretend that it is merely “one force among many” in society.
2. The absurd liberal reformist doctrine that in the United States a coalition of labor unions, small businesses, small investors, “progressive” social forces and locally-based political parties (and especially the Democratic Party) can “balance” the power of giant corporations, big banks and Wall Street, and implement and secure major changes for the better in American society. This view also totally denies that there is a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie in the U.S., and claims that “potentially at least” there is some actual democracy within American society today.
The term “countervailing power” was popularized by the liberal bourgeois economist John Kenneth Galbraith in his book American Capitalism (1952) where he argued that the otherwise excessive power advantages of huge corporations and banks could be offset in the labor market by powerful labor unions and within the political system by these unions in alliance with small businessmen, citizens’ organizations, and so forth.
The original inspiration for this idea was the supposed great success of the New Deal in the 1930s. However, the very limited improvements in capitalist society in the New Deal were only possible because of the extreme economic crisis of capitalism during the Great Depression and the desperation of the ruling class itself to maintain control by granting some temporary concessions to the working class. Moreover, it was only possible for the ruling class to continue many of these concessions for the quarter century following World War II because that war had temporarily resolved the U.S. and world capitalist overproduction crisis. However, that post-war boom came to an end in the mid-1970s, and since then there has been a long period during which the New Deal social benefits and welfare state have been gradually rolled back in the direction of eventual total elimination. The unions, the key economic force which Galbraith and others have identified as a “countervailing power” to corporations and Wall Street have been weakened to the point where they hardly matter any more. (The percentage of unionized workers in U.S. private industry has fallen all the way down to just 7.4% by 2015, and even those unions have little fight left in them. And, as far as political influence goes, the richest fraction of 1% of the population donates far more to politicians than all the unions put together now do.)
In short, whatever very limited and temporary aspect of truth there may have once been to the notion of any “countervailing power” against the corporations and the banks, it has now disappeared for good. Despite this, there continue to be liberal reformers who still believe in the theory and still try to fool the working class into believing it too. (See the quotes below from Robert Reich.)
“[The] ... centers of countervailing power that between the 1930s
and the late 1970s enabled America’s middle and lower-middle classes to exert their own
influence [in opposition to the big corporations and Wall Street]—labor unions, small
businesses, small investors, and political parties anchored at the local and state
levels—have withered. The consequence has been a market organized by those with great
wealth for the purpose of further enhancing their wealth. This has resulted in ever-larger
upward pre-distributions inside the market, from the middle class and poor to a
minority at the top....
“[T]he pay of average workers has gone nowhere because they have lost their aforementioned countervailing economic power and political influence....
“[T]he solution is not to create more or less government. The problem is not the size of government but whom the government is for. The remedy is for the vast majority to regain influence over how the market is organized. This will require a new countervailing power, allying the economic interests of the majority who have not shared the economy’s gains....
“My conclusion is that the only way to reverse course is for the vast majority who now lack influence over the rules of the game [in the American capitalist economy] to become organized and unified, in order to re-establish the countervailing power that was the key to widespread prosperity five decades ago.”
—Robert Reich, former U.S. Secretary of Labor in the Bill Clinton administration, in his book Saving Capitalism (2015), pp. xiv-xv.
[Of course Reich is entirely correct when he says that the basic problem is “whom the government is for”. But what he can’t understand or accept is that there is a capitalist ruling class and has been one all along. He himself admits that the rich totally control the economy and the government. And yet he still believes in the system that the enemy capitalist class totally controls; he still imagines that “American democracy” can be made to work in the interests of the people, despite the fact that it is the total instrument of the bourgeoisie for maintaining and extending their wealth and political control of the country. —S.H.]
“But over the past three decades, countervailing power has almost
vanished from American politics. Labor unions have been decimated. In the 2012
presidential election, the richest 0.01 percent of households gave Democratic candidates
more than four times what unions contributed to their campaigns.
“Small retailers have been displaced by Walmart and Amazon. Local banks have been absorbed by Wall Street behemoths.
“And both political parties have morphed into giant national fundraising machines. The Democratic National Committee, like its Republican counterpart, is designed mainly to suck up big money.” —Robert Reich, in a column in the San Francisco Chronicle, Aug. 21, 2016, p. E8.
[After thus all but admitting that there is really no objective basis whatsoever for any “countervailing power” within the American economy or politics, Reich nevertheless went on to say that Hillary Clinton, if she is elected president, will have to try to construct such a force from the defeated Bernie Sanders supporters if she hopes to get anything at all accomplished in her term of office. So what does Reich expect? That Clinton, this repulsive politician who concerns herself with nothing except her own career, will urge the masses to riot in the streets to promote real social change? How foolish can you be! —S.H.]
“COUNTRYSIDE SURROUNDING CITIES”
See: FOREIGN EXPERIENCE
Covid-19 is the serious respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 corona virus. “Covid-19” is a shortened form of “corona virus disease 2019”. It is thought that the virus causing this disease originally came from bats, and may have had another intermediate animal host before finally reaching humans. (This is what happened with the related SARS corona virus disease.)
This disease first arose in December 2019 (or possibly slightly before that), apparently in a public marketplace where meat from wild animals was sold in Wuhan, China. The highly contagious disease then began to spread around China and the whole world in a major pandemic, which as of the end of 2022 is still continuing and spreading rapidly, in the form of newly evolving virus variants. There is an alternative theory about the pandemic being started by the accidental escape of the SARS-CoV-2 virus from a virus research laboratory in Wuhan. So far the dominant evidence does not support this theory. In addition, there have been a number of other much wilder conspiracy theories popularized on the Internet about the origin of the pandemic, such that it was purposely released either by Chinese government agents (for some inexplicable reason); or else by U.S. military agents working secretly in China, in order to slow down the rapid economic and military advance of China. It should be firmly stated that at present there is no evidence whatsoever to support such wild conspiracy theories.
As of December 16, 2022, there have already been 99,705,095 recorded cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. alone, and 1,083,279 deaths according to the Centers for Disease Control. Worldwide there have been 657,745,906 recorded cases and 6,671,779 deaths. However, it is generally thought that the number of deaths worldwide is much larger than this, probably at least 15 million so far, since the statistics are either unreliable or else purposely lied about in some countries (and notably in India). As of late December 2022 the Covid-19 death rates in the U.S. are once again rising and are over 400 per day.
In China the disease was recognized early on by physicians as a new and dangerous outbreak, but the local politicians of the fascist capitalist regime there refused to believe it and tried to punish those doctors for spreading unjustified rumors. The earliest of these heroic whistle-blowing doctors, Li Wenliang, himself contracted Covid-19 and died from it. However, China—to its credit—did eventually start to take the epidemic seriously, and used the method of contact-tracing and isolating humans from each other to the maximum degree possible. For at least a year and a half China managed to bring the disease outbreak under general control except for occasional isolated outbreaks, usually thought to be caused by infections brought in by travelers from outside the country. But it should also be added that this general control of the pandemic in China was accomplished in a very authoritarian way, via extremely strict top-down orders, rather than by educating and organizing the masses themselves in a mass line way as would have certainly been done during the Maoist/socialist era in China. (For more recent information about the progression of Covid-19 in China see the entry below about its economic effects in China.)
Curiously, other countries have mostly been unable to learn from China’s experience, and only began serious measures to try to isolate those infected after the disease was already considerably out of control. This was especially the case in Italy and Iran early on in the pandemic, though most other countries have followed the same path. New Zealand has had one of the most effective responses, and for a while Taiwan, South Korea, and a few other countries were handling the outbreak fairly well. But new more infectious variants of the virus are proving very difficult to deal with even in these countries.
The response by the authorities in the U.S. has been one of the very worst in the entire world. In the decades before this pandemic the U.S. government steadily decreased its funding and preparations for such an outbreak—even though scientists have long predicted that something like this was inevitable some day. In May 2018 the Trump administration closed down the National Security Council’s global health security unit—the very office that was supposed to make sure the U.S. was ready for such a pandemic and then lead in dealing with it should it occur. In addition the government speeded up the slashing of support for hospitals and public health programs in general. During the critical early period of the outbreak in the U.S., starting in January 2020, Trump and his administration continually tried to deny or pooh-pooh the dangers of the corona virus disease. Only in late March 2020, after things got much more perilous, did they start to take some limited though still fairly ineffective action. Way too little, and way too late, continues to characterize the U.S. response to the pandemic.
On top of all this, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) decided not to use the World Health Organization’s existing Covid-19 diagnostic test procedure, and instead started from scratch to develop its own. (This is an example of how American imperialist arrogance intrudes even into science and health matters!) The CDC’s own test kits were very slow in coming, and initially they were unreliable, or even failed to work at all. Thus the U.S. was extremely slow to start testing sick people to see if they actually had Covid-19. This in turn seriously interfered with the urgent need to isolate genuine carriers of the Covid-19 virus. As of the end of 2022 this sad story still continues even three years into the pandemic! Although test kits are now finally (more than two years late!) mostly available, they are still not always fully reliable, and the best of them (PCR tests) are often slow to provide a yes-or-no answer as to whether someone has Covid-19.
Thoughout the years 2020, 2021 and 2022 the disease has continued to spread in the United States. At times the situation seemed to be improving somewhat, especially because of the rapid development of quite effective vaccines, including the new mRNA vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. (Although these vaccines were produced by private corporations, the bulk of the research making this possible—as well, of course, as all the necessary money—was provided by the government. The companies making these vaccines are raking in huge fortunes.) If everyone in the U.S. (and the whole world) had been immediately and fully vaccinated by these new vaccines, the pandemic could have been ended. But the massive production of vaccines that this would have required, in an emergency crash program, was simply not done. This was yet another crime by the capitalist authorities.
The science of epidemiology is well aware of the fact that the viruses (or bacteria) that cause epidemics can mutate and evolve. And that the successful mutations will usually be those which spread more rapidly because they are more infectious. This is one of the reasons why it is extremely important to stop epidemics quickly before they become even worse. But although the science of epidemiology knows this, it seems that the U.S. government and even many of the government scientists in the CDC and elsewhere have not paid much attention to this simple evolutionary fact. All too often in this pandemic they have pandered to the bourgeois politicians in the government who are far more concerned with keeping capitalist profits high than they are in ending the health crisis. This has already allowed a number of infectious and dangerous virus variants to evolve in this pandemic, most notably what were called the Delta and Omicron variants, and their sub-variants. Thus early in 2021, and then again at the end of 2021, a pandemic situation that briefly seemed to the authorities was coming under control burst its bounds and resumed its rampage on an even greater scale. And even now, at the end of 2022, infection rates are picking up in a major way yet again.
Of course it is not only the capitalist profit motive and the scientific ignorance of the government that is in large part responsible for this completely inept—even criminally inept—response to the pandemic; it is also the scientific ignorance of the masses, millions of whom have proven themselves unwilling to take the reasonable and necessary steps of getting tested, wearing masks, socially distancing, and—since it has become widely available—getting fully vaccinated and then periodically boosted. And all this despite the fact that these things are all strongly in their own personal interests, as well as in the essential interests of their families, friends, and the people in general. It is hard not to feel that this ignorant and selfish response of so many millions is a fitting commentary on the dying and decadent state of this disgusting capitalist society. But it is also important to keep in mind just who is ultimately responsible for this mass scientific ignorance and indifference to others! It is, of course, once again, the capitalist ruling class which controls the pathetically inadequate educational system in every capitalist country, and which instills selfish “individualism” into so many people. While we do have to criticize the people who are not willing to wear masks and get vaccinated, mostly we need to ferociously criticize the bourgeois authorities who are, in the final analysis, responsible for this and virtually all the other aspects of this horrible situation.
Overall, the pandemic situation in the United States and the whole world, despite some ups and downs and temporary improvements during some periods, has actually been quite out of control. It appears that the capitalist ruling classes of the world are either unable to control and end it, or unwilling to do so (because of their need to keep their profit-based economy functioning), or both. It now appears that before the pandemic is over—if indeed it ever is completely over!—millions more people may die from it worldwide. Who knows how bad things might be by the time we get to the Sigma and Omega variants, and beyond.
Besides the serious sickness (including “Long-term Covid”, which we haven’t discussed) and agonizing deaths, the Covid-19 pandemic is also leading to extremely serious economic and financial problems in the U.S. and for the whole world. See the separate entry below for more on this. [Last updated: Dec. 19, 2022.]
See also below, and: CONTACT TRACING, “FLATTENING THE CURVE”, HERD IMMUNITY, HOSPITALS, LONG COVID, WASTEWATER BIOLOGICAL SAMPLING
“We are witnessing ... an outright crime against humanity.” —Arundhati Roy,
writing in the Guardian newspaper, April 28, 2021, about the Modi government’s failure
to handle India’s brutal second wave of Covid-19, caused by the Delta variant. (Reprinted in
Time magazine, Jan. 3, 2022.)
[And the same should be said about the criminally indifferent and inept handling of the entire pandemic in most of the countries of the world, and in the United States in particular. —Ed.]
COVID-19 PANDEMIC — Economic Consequences
The Covid-19 Pandemic [see above] has been extremely disruptive to the world capitalist economy. It has forced the closure of large numbers of factories and businesses for long periods. This led to enormous numbers of workers being laid off for extended periods, or even losing their jobs entirely. It has forced millions to work from home, thus severely harming businesses that depended on their patronage around their work places. It has forced governments to spend enormous sums for welfare payments (though still often inadequate especially for the poor), and to extend far bigger and more sustained handouts to corporations and businesses to keep them from going bankrupt. These things led to vast increases in government debt, and the creation of enormous amounts of money out of thin air by central banks, which then in turn led to the most serious inflation in forty years, which at the end of 2022 still continues.
In addition, the world economy shifted to a considerable degree, and for quite a long period, in the sorts of things people spend their money on. For example, they spent much less on services (such as dining out, gasoline, traveling, hotels, movies, etc.) and much more on physical merchandize, like TVs, computers and all kinds of household goods.
These shifts in spending, together with the large increases in spending by the “middle class” due to government handouts, along with interruptions of production work and snags in the transportation of goods directly caused by the disease itself, then resulted in massive supply chain disruptions and prolonged shortages of key items. This was further aggravated by the risky (but normally profitable) “just-in-time” acquisition methods which manufacturers have been using in recent decades for raw materials and components they use to make their products. Since they have no reserve supply already on hand, when even one component is temporarily unavailable, whole factories may need to be shut down, which can create similar problems for the users of that factory’s production in sort of a chain reaction. This problem hit auto production especially hard, especially due to the shortage of certain specialized computer chips.
But these sorts of problems, while still serious at the moment, are relatively short-term. They result to a considerable degree from the prevailing “anarchy of production” under capitalism, especially in unusual circumstances which tend not to be planned for at all. The bigger problem for capitalism is that there is also another much deeper economic crisis developing in the background; one of a much more serious, prolonged and intractable nature: namely, an overproduction crisis, under which the massive capitalist production machine is built up far beyond the market demand for goods through the wild use of ever-growing credit and debt. So actually the most important thing about the economic problems caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, and government responses to those problems, is how all this affects the deeper and ultimately far more serious overproduction crisis which has already been slowly but inexorably developing for decades.
The fascinating thing is that the government response of sudden massive Keynesian deficit financing and the blatant creation of more and more money to deal with the pandemic has also helped keep the underlying overproduction crisis from worsening for the first two years of the pandemic. But this was only because it more quickly used up the government ammunition available for warding off the eventual financial crisis and depression that the overproduction problem is inevitably leading to. We could put it this way: The only way to ward off an economic crisis and collapse due to overproduction is to constantly expand consumer and/or government debt in order to artifically prop up effective market demand. But the more insistently and powerfully that this is done, as in the way it was being done in 2020 through early 2022, the nearer the whole economy gets to that great financial collapse and reckoning.
Although the bourgeoisie (especially the free-spending liberals within it) don’t understand this, their Keynesian response to the economic problems caused by the pandemic is indeed a good thing for the economy in the short run, but a frightful thing in the end. It is hastening the denouement for the deeper overproduction crisis; in other words, the extreme financial/economic disaster which is eventually approaching in any case. And that is indeed pretty serious, considering how close the U.S. and world capitalist economy already came to collapsing in the Great Recession just a decade or so ago!
“Globally, the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic probably put 50 million people who otherwise would have qualified as middle class into lower income levels, according to Pew Research analysis.” —New York Times, “Biden Gambles Big to Bridge Wealth Gap”, April 24, 2021. [So while government handouts propped up much of the middle class in the wealthy countries, world-wide the pandemic also pushed millions out of the so-called middle class entirely, especially in what is termed the “developing countries”. —Ed.]
COVID-19 PANDEMIC — Economic and Social Consequences in China
The initial outbreak of the pandemic was in China, and therefore the greatest initial negative economic impact of Covid-19 was also in China, especially in the Wuhan area, early in 2020. However, through lockdowns and isolation of infected people and those around them, China then proceeded to largely get the disease under control for a couple years. This actually led to a continuing expanding economy in China while the rest of the world was sinking into economic crisis because of the pandemic. (See quote below.)
However, in the spring of 2022, that situation began changing again, this time in a less favorable direction for China. The newer variants of the Covid-19 virus, re-introduced from outside China, are much more infectious and more difficult to get under control through lockdowns and the tight testing procedures that worked pretty well in China for a couple years. And the growing number, sizes, and extended lengths of these lockdowns became quite alarming. These lockdowns and other restrictions were leading to serious economic disruption in themselves! Something almost unheard of in authoritarian China occurred: By the end of 2022 widespread mass disgruntlement, protests and resistence, along with the economic disruption, forced the government to greatly ease off on its excessively restrictive lockdown policies. But this now portends a serious resurgence of Covid-19 infections throughout China which will itself be quite economically disruptive.
While China is overall one of the most vaccinated countries for Covid-19 in the world (86% as of 29 March 2022, according to the BBC), it is widely considered that Chinese vaccines are not as effective as the mRNA vaccines developed in Europe and the U.S. Plus, most Chinese have not gotten boosters after their initial innoculations. Moreover, the vaccination rate of older people in China—by far the most vulnerable to serious disease and death—is fairly poor (perhaps only one-third of those over 65 according to one source). On top of this, the percentage of the Chinese population which has been previously exposed to the disease, and has developed some immunity that way, is much less than in most other countries. So as of late December 2022, a huge surge in new infections appears to be underway, which is likely once again to force measures which will also harm the economy. For these reasons it is not at all clear that the Chinese economy will fare as well over the next couple years as it did for the first couple years of the pandemic.
“Chinese factories have grabbed a considerably larger share of world markets during during the pandemic, including a jump of 14.7 percent in exports in March (2022) from a year earlier.” —New York Times, “China Data Hint at Cost of Strategy to Curb Virus”, April 19, 2022.
COVID-19 PANDEMIC — Critical Summations by World Health Authorities
Although as of September 2022 the Covid-19 pandemic is by no means over it does, hopefully, seem to be finally gradually declining in severity. And critical summations are beginning to appear which criticize the way the world’s governments and health agencies have seriously screwed up in attempting to end or at least control the pandemic. This of course comes as no suprise whatsoever to those of us who recognize that capitalist governments are far more concerned with continuing profit generation than they are with demonstrating any concern for the welfare of the people.
Part of the executive summary of one very important critical appraisal, by a special Commission set up by one of the world’s leading medical journals, The Lancet, is presented below. As can be seen there, this Lancet Commission is very strongly and appropriately critical of a great many aspects of the way this pandemic has been dealt with.
As of May 31, 2022, there were 6·9 million reported deaths and 17·2 million estimated
deaths from COVID-19, as reported by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.... This staggering
death toll is both a profound tragedy and a massive global failure at multiple levels. Too many
governments have failed to adhere to basic norms of institutional rationality and transparency, too many
people—often influenced by misinformation—have disrespected and protested against basic public health
precautions, and the world’s major powers have failed to collaborate to control the pandemic. The
multiple failures of international cooperation include (1) the lack of timely notification of the initial
outbreak of COVID-19; (2) costly delays in acknowledging the crucial airborne exposure pathway of
SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and in implementing appropriate measures at national and
global levels to slow the spread of the virus; (3) the lack of coordination among countries regarding
suppression strategies; (4) the failure of governments to examine evidence and adopt best practices for
controlling the pandemic and managing economic and social spillovers from other countries; (5) the
shortfall of global funding for low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), as classified by the
World Bank; (6) the failure to ensure adequate global supplies and equitable distribution of key
commodities—including protective gear, diagnostics, medicines, medical devices, and vaccines—especially
for LMICs; (7) the lack of timely, accurate, and systematic data on infections, deaths, viral variants,
health system responses, and indirect health consequences; (8) the poor enforcement of appropriate levels
of biosafety regulations in the lead-up to the pandemic, raising the possibility of a laboratory-related
outbreak; (9) the failure to combat systematic disinformation; and (10) the lack of global and national
safety nets to protect populations experiencing vulnerability.
—“The Lancet Commission on lessons for the future from the COVID-19 pandemic”, published online September 14, 2022 at: https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(22)01585-9 See also the website: https://www.thelancet.com/commissions/covid19
[Usually pronounced: cov-idiot] A pejorative term for someone who ignores health and safety guidelines and advice which is provided by medical experts for the purpose of preventing the further spread of the Covid-19 disease [see above]. This term arose in the U.S. in 2020 in reaction to the utter foolishness of many ignorant or reactionary people (especially right-wing Trump followers) who refused to wear masks in public, follow social distancing recommendations, and avoid unnecessary social gatherings. Many such people, initially at least, denied that Covid-19 was a serious disease, or even that it really existed at all. It was, some of them claimed, a “media invention”.
When effective Covid-19 vaccines became available near the end of 2020, this sort of foolishness also began to take the form of anti-vax attitudes and refusals to get vaccinated.
“Jodi Doering, an emergency room nurse at a South Dakota hospital, is a daily
witness to just how sick our country has become. People severely ill with Covid-19 are flooding
her hospital, suffering also from an extreme case of cognitive
dissonance: They’ve been told the pandemic was a concoction of the fake news media. ‘They tell
you there must be another reason they are sick,’ an exhausted Doering recounted on Twitter this
week. Even while gasping for breath, she says, the patients insist ‘they don’t have Covid because
it’s not real.’ The delusional talk only stops when these patients get intubated or die. ‘It’s
like a f---ing horror movie that never ends,’ Doering says.
“This horror movie is now playing in hospitals in large swathes of the U.S., most frequently in states where coronavirus denialism is rampant. The test positivity rate in South Dakota is a breathtaking 58 percent, yet Gov. Kristi Noem continues to refuse to impose mask mandates or other restrictions. ‘My people are happy,’ she recently said. ‘They’re happy because they’re free.’ Struggling for breath in an ICU, or being zipped into a body bag, is a strange sort of freedom, but such is the surreal state of the nation’s leadership in the annus horribulis [horrible year] of 2020.... The scientists may rescue us in the spring with vaccines..., but how many more people will perish or become debilitated by Covid before they arrive? Freedom without responsibility is manslaughter.” —William Falk, editor-in-chief, The Week magazine, Nov. 27, 2020, p. 4.
[The personal freedom to “do as you please” ends of course when that means harming others. Refusing to follow reasonable rules such as wearing masks and social distancing, or getting vaccinated, in the middle of a pandemic can in fact lead to harm or even the deaths of other people. And those political leaders, like Donald Trump and many others like him, who refuse to establish and promote such reasonable rules and who purposely spread Covid denialism in order to promote their reactionary or semi-fascist political agendas are in effect guilty of mass murder. However, we have to also recognize that those masses who are fooled by all this nonsense are not themselves the enemy; they are people who we should try to inform and educate about the real situation, for their own benefit as well as for everyone else’s. We do have to draw a major distinction between the erring masses and those who are criminally misleading them. —Ed.]
See: COMMUNIST PARTY OF INDIA (MARXIST)
See: COMMUNIST PARTY OF THE SOVIET UNION
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