News Release

COVID-19, Capitalism, and Socialism


VICTOR WALLIS, zendive at

Wallis is author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism (2018), Democracy Denied: Five Lectures on U.S. Politics (2019) and the recently released Socialist Practice.

He just wrote the piece “COVID-19, Capitalism, and Socialism,” which states: “The COVID-19 emergency underscores longstanding truths about capitalism and socialism. Acting on the most immediate demands that it raises draws us directly into a confrontation with core issues. …

“The clash between capitalist principles and human need is especially striking in the sphere of healthcare because we find here an extraordinarily glaring discrepancy between the potential cost of a recommended medical procedure and the capacity of a person of average or low income to pay for it. The notion of measuring need through the market fails here so completely that even in otherwise capitalist countries, it has been widely recognized that the provision of healthcare must be informed by socialist principles. Still, the actual implementation of such an approach depends on pressure from the organized working class (which, as a political force, has been notoriously weak in the United States). …

“A socialist approach to healthcare thus goes beyond responding just to market demand or to private interests and instead builds an infrastructure that can respond to emergency needs. This was strikingly shown just now in China, where urgently needed temporary hospitals were built (in Wuhan) in just two weeks. Moreover, a fully socialist approach, with its corresponding culture of cooperation, makes it possible, as Cuba has repeatedly shown, to extend health services on a large scale to people in other countries.

“The capitalist framework, by contrast, not only suffers from the above-noted drawbacks; in addition, in its current ‘neoliberal’ form, it has increasingly prioritized cost-cutting. In the same way that manufacturing industry, using new technologies, turns more and more to ‘just in time’ production (not building up inventories, thereby risking sudden shortages), so also the healthcare industry, in its drive for ‘efficiency,’ closes down hospitals and reduces its total numbers of beds, which then come up short in the event of an emergency. Ironically, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has emerged as a prominent critic of the federal government’s failures, was himself responsible for reducing from 50,000 to 30,000 the number of hospital beds in his own state.”