Politics, Pandemics, and Anti-Imperialism

Within its first hundred days, the Biden administration had already bombed Syria, deployed bombers to Norway, and arrayed countries against China through the ‘Quad’ Summit. Meanwhile, Texans went without electricity, Asian-Americans and African-Americans suffered from racial violence, and millions of working people across the country awaited financial relief while struggling to obtain vaccines that were often deployed inefficiently, creating logistical and material problems on top of existing hardships. 

The connection between these sets of events may not seem obvious at first. However, the reality is that the desperate race for COVID-19 vaccinations and the efforts to deal with the pandemic coincide with the increasingly tense nature of the geopolitical situation, especially the rivalries between the great power nations, such as the United States, China, and Russia. Furthermore, this geopolitical competition, spurred on by the pandemic, will have serious implications for the working class of this country. We have already seen some of its political implications, such as the rampant opportunism on the left, which claims to support the working class on the one hand, while promoting neo-liberal imperialism on the other. In order to prepare for these events, we must have a better understanding of the forces at work and above all, we must build up an authentic anti-imperialist movement, which will not only benefit the oppressed nations of the world, but will also aid our country’s own working class by preventing unnecessary conflict and eliminating foreign distractions which are designed to misinform and mislead the public. 

Recall last year when Russia launched its ‘Sputnik-V’ vaccine. Many Western media outlets attacked the effort as nothing but ‘propaganda’ and dismissed its efficacy on baseless grounds. Regardless of whether the Russian claims were true or not, it was very telling to see such a hostile reaction during a time in which international cooperation was the mantra of the UN and WHO. Of course, far from being a friend of the world, the Trump administration had engaged in the most shameless attempts to monopolize its control over vaccines from other countries, all while criticizing China and Russia for their ruthlessness. 

It must be said again and again that regardless of whether the claims of the Russian and Chinese governments about their vaccines are true, it is highly suspicious for the Western media outlets to be so vigorous in their attacks against them, especially when we consider how the United States, the United Kingdom, and the EU countries have been struggling to deal with their own vaccines. Here, I claim that the suspicious motive behind these attacks has little to do with scientific concerns about vaccine efficacy and much more to do with an imperialist agenda. 

Backtracking a bit, let us not forget Biden’s iconic words, ‘America is back’ – this proclamation sounded the alarm as to what the intentions of this administration would be. It means renewed efforts to infringe on the affairs of other countries and the endless expansion of the already monstrously large military-industrial complex. 

Now, I return to the issue of media hostility towards Russia and China. The longstanding tensions between the U.S. and those two countries are well known, but have become particularly more tense in recent years due to events in the South China Sea and Black Sea. With regards to the former, Biden has sent a clear message about U.S. intentions to reject China’s claims in the strategically vital, energy rich area. And with regards to the former, Biden maintains the U.S. position on Crimea belonging to Ukraine, despite the fact that this is no longer the de facto situation, and is not likely to change. Given this geopolitical context, we can clearly deduce the fact that there is a clear motive at work for the so-called progressive liberals who support Biden and the U.S. establishment as a whole. Far from being the guardian angels they present themselves as, the liberal media is only interested in justifying aggressive U.S. policy, especially in the wake of the Biden victory, and they do this by focusing their attacks on China, Russia, and any other country which may prove to be an obstacle to their agenda. In the interests of the American working class, we must not allow ourselves to fall victim to this deception. 

Finally, I shall bring my entire point together. Recall the domestic problems I mentioned earlier, chief among them being the Texas power crisis, which left over 5 million Americans without electricity. This occurred amidst the desperate efforts to vaccinate millions of Americans in a race against time to prevent the new COVID-19 variants from taking a foothold. The situation in the EU countries was not much better, causing bitterness and resentment among citizens due to the lackluster rollout, despite the optimism of political leaders. What is striking about all of this is that in such a time of crisis, it would behoove Western political leaders (including our own in Washington D.C.) to at least make a good faith effort at cooperating with countries like China and Russia in helping to meet global vaccine demand, especially when time is of the essence and supplies are short. The response has been, as we know, anything but that. Our supposedly ‘peace-loving’ leaders have been working hard to undermine such efforts by pushing countries to reject Chinese and Russian vaccine shipments – and not because their own supply is so plentiful. But then the question arises – why would they do this? In order to understand the answer, we must turn to the works of theory.

“We have seen that in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism.”

-Vladimir Lenin, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism

Imperialism is not merely a preferred policy choice of the current establishment – it is a distinct phase of development in the capitalist economy itself. Although the development of capitalism began within the confines of individual states, it inevitably expanded beyond them and encompassed the entire globe. And this was not by mere chance, but was (and still is) built into the very logic of capitalism itself. It would have been impossible for there to have been capitalism ‘in a single country’ because the aims of the capitalist are global. And these aims have no respect for ‘international treaties’ or ‘conventions’ of any kind. For example, the company Pfizer cut back its previously agreed shipment of vaccines to Europe, due to the fact that European health officials had figured out ways to extract more doses of the vaccine than what was previously agreed to in the contract, causing widespread indignation among European governments. And I have not yet mentioned the massive profits made by these vaccine corporations during this terrible time of hardship for the entire population of the globe, but especially those in the poorest nations. In short, the development of huge corporate monopolies, such as those of Google, Amazon, and the aforementioned vaccine corporations inevitably leads to imperialism as a means of suppressing the class struggle domestically and expanding profits internationally. 

Imperialism also has its own distinct class antagonisms, such as the intensified class struggle between the labor aristocracy and the working class, which is particularly divisive in our country. These antagonisms arise from the contradictions of imperialism. An obvious example of this is the aforementioned Texan power crisis. While corporations scramble to secure their grip on resources and maximize their profits, millions of people are quite literally left in the dark. The aim of the capitalists is to placate the more well off elements of the labor aristocracy while suppressing the general mass of workers. This produces the political opportunism we have seen on the left in recent years, such as the capitulation of the reformist Sanders camp to Joe Biden. The political divide between working class interests and the reformist aspirations is to be found in the contradictions of imperialism itself. Historically, this divide has caused betrayal and infighting on the left, such as the infamous divide during World War I between the socialists of the Second international and the supporters of the Bolsheviks, who denounced the opportunism of the former.

The events of these past few months have demonstrated the need for a socialist movement that is truly revolutionary in its aims and strategy. In contrast to reformism, revolutionary socialism grasps the fact that the contradictions of capitalism can never be resolved under the present system. It can only be achieved by the complete overthrow of capitalism by the working class. And in its place, the working class can build a political and economic system based on the collective ownership of the means of production and safeguarded by the dictatorship of the proletariat, which will serve society as a whole, not just a few powerful individuals. This is the viewpoint of revolutionary socialism. 

To summarize, the American working class must have an anti-imperialist movement in order to protect its own vital interests and to steer clear of the dangers of opportunism. The purpose of this movement would be to work in conjunction with and give direction to the existing parties and organizations of the socialist movement. This can be achieved through protests and demonstrations against the government’s actions, such as the withholding of vaccines from other countries, but also through solidarity with other countries, such as the ‘Hands Off Syria’ movement. As long as capitalism exists, imperialism will exist. Conversely, the strength of the socialist movement depends upon the existence of an anti-imperialist movement which can rally the working class against war, aggression, and political opportunism, with the ultimate purpose of undermining imperialist interests and blocking the suppression of the class struggle, so that the socialist movement, which alone is capable of resolving the contradictions of capitalist society, can carry out its revolutionary tasks. 

The working class can not expect any lasting relief, so long as the vicious policy of the U.S. imperialists continues to make the world a more unsafe place. Even a global pandemic does not put the military-industrial complex to rest. On the contrary, it has spurred a ‘vaccine war’ which has only added to the misery of the working people. In the eyes of imperialism, vaccines are just a commodity and people’s lives are just the casualties.