Sanctions or solidarity

By Sara Flounders
April 8, 2020

A pandemic by its very nature needs a global response. It can only be addressed with a high level of intense cooperation and social mobilization. Every form of scientific and technological cooperation is urgently needed.

The U.S. is the center of an empire built on and dominated by capitalist expropriation on a world scale. Washington’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has been to increase ruthless competition, economic sanctions and war threats

A handful of banks and industries that operate on a for-profit basis privately expropriate goods that are socially produced by millions of workers connected to each other in global supply chains in 200 different countries. Only goods that are immediately profitable are produced, in a competitive and chaotic manner. Any other form of distribution and exchange — even in the face of a pandemic — is deeply threatening to U.S. economic domination of world markets.

Even before the pandemic hit, the U.S. government had accelerated — through economic sanctions — the denial of medicines and food to one-third of the world’s population. During a global crisis, sanctions have put the entire world at risk

What is increasingly obvious to millions of people worldwide is that countries with different economic systems respond differently in a public health crisis

In keeping with its principle of international solidarity, Cuba sent brigades of medical staff to hard-hit Italy, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Jamaica, Suriname and Grenada. Cuba has also developed and freely shared with the world Interferon Alfa-2B to treat COVID-19 patients. This socialist country has sent 400,000 medical professionals to 164 countries, and provided vital aid since 1963 in the most serious health crises.

China is sending medical equipment to every country in Africa, every country facing U.S. sanctions, and economically developed countries in the European Union. Despite the paralysis of global supply chains, China is transporting tons of test kits, personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators around the world. Flights of PPE from China arrive daily in the U.S

In contrast, Washington blocked a shipment to Cuba of test kits, PPE and other aid  from the Chinese electronic giant Alibaba and the Jack Ma Foundation. The U.S. confiscated 200,000 masks en route from China to Germany, which drew Berlin’s condemnation, and took ventilators bound for Barbados. The U.S. ordered the 3M company not to export essential N95 medical face masks to Canada and Latin America, and ruthlessly outbid allies’ contracts for medical supplies

U.S. threats are so ruthless they can generate the opposite response, even among its capitalist competitors. Germany, France and Britain sent medical goods to Iran through INSTEX, a vehicle enabling them to circumvent U.S. sanctions on Iran

European members of the U.S.-commanded NATO military alliance backed out of scheduled “war games,” including a practice nuclear attack on Russia

Unity needed in war on virus

President Hassan Rouhani of Iran addressed the people of the U.S., saying, “The war on this virus can only be successful if all nations can win this war together, and no affected nation is left behind

And Venezuela, facing the harshest U.S. sanctions in history, a naval blockade, and increasing bellicosity, responded by sending aid to its neighbors, including Ecuador and Colombia

Imperialist policies will grow more ruthless as the pandemic spreads, and in its aftermath. The economic survival of capitalists and their corporate stockholders is based on beating out their competition in a crisis. Each growth spurt in the capitalist system involves the downfall of capitalist competitors.

Despite years of warnings of the danger of a global pandemic, even by the National Security Council, the Pentagon neglected to stockpile sufficient emergency medical supplies, while it stockpiled weapons worth trillions of dollars

Socialist planning and large-scale collective ownership of major industries, including the medical industry, have been decisive in China and Cuba. Even in Venezuela, Vietnam and Nicaragua, the social mobilization of the people in health and social distancing measures has dramatically helped control the outbreak

The stark choices in an ever sharper global struggle are clear. The relentless drive to reap a profit from every type of human interaction has been exposed as the greatest danger to the people of the planet.