SL: The extend of the spread of Corona Virus and the number of dead as a result, are very frightening and extremely alarming. It is a very sad situation. As everybody knows, Corona Virus cases have passed 300,000 around the world, and more than 13000 deaths have occurred. There may be more. It is reported that in Italy, there were 800 deaths on just one day (Saturday), and many infected and died in Iran. People are justifiably worried. Do you think the measures implemented in the world, specially in Iran, are working?
AM: As you said it is very worrying and sad both in terms of lives and the misery people are going through. The insecurity of their lives, and if they are not dying of the virus, they might die of hunger. In Iran, the authorities are hiding all the numbers, even WHO (World Health Organisation) has reported that the numbers infected and dead are 5 times more than what the Islamic regime announces. We keep seeing videos from Iran that people are just dying and are buried collectively without their families knowing where they are. This is really horrible. When it comes to governments taking the proper measures, I have to say a strong no. They are not. They have lied to people and hidden the facts. They only mentioned it once it was spread widely. Even after that, the measures are so limited. The measures in some countries are worse than other countries.
When you talk about Iran, you are seeing a regime that has no care or responsibility towards the citizens. They are a bunch of thieves and murderers who are running the country. In the Western world where there is democracy and apparently some sort of accountability by the government, the measures are not enough. Look at Britain, Sweden, Holland or US. It is horrendous and worrying.
SL: What amazes everybody is quite obvious. The cruelty of capitalism has always been obvious, i.e. exploitation, misery, war and devastation. What has happened now is the fact that this epidemic has actually exposed the true nature of capitalism even more. Do you not think so?
AM: Exactly. In my Farsi language article for our journal (Communist), I touched on some aspects of it. I am not talking about history, something that has happened a long time ago, but just look at the past 20 years. How many people died in the Middle East and North Africa due to wars? Millions died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Sudan etc. On top of that, many people lost their lives due to hunger and displacement. Once people decide to flee the misery and the hell they are forced to endure, they end up in the Mediterranean sea! In Libya, they are treated as slaves and sold in slave markets. People in Europe could say these people are poor, live far away somewhere else, their culture is backward, they are Muslims but we are OK. Now they can’t say that. The number of people who lost their lives to Corona Virus is nothing compared to those died because of war, hunger, lack of security and dictatorships. However, once devastation reaches Europe and you look at the universality of human being’s destiny or existence at the hands of capitalism, then capitalism is really exposed. Here in Europe they can have none of these excuses.
Look at the way governments are dealing with the situation. “Herd Immunity”! I think Boris Johnson was the first person who mentioned it. Angela Merkel mentioned it too. They are still saying it in Sweden and Netherlands. It is the government’s policy there without naming it. What is “Herd immunity”? It means weak people should die, then the whole society will become immune which is the price society has to pay! They look at people in terms of numbers because they have taken the flesh and humanity out of it, then they say OK everybody is safe! Who are these numbers? Who are these weak people who are going to die in the “Herd Immunity”? It is my mother, my father, my grandmother, my grandfather, my uncle, my aunt or my beautiful neighbour. When you put it this way, you can see the inhumanity in this philosophy or ideology. I call this social Darwinism. The survival of the fittest in evolution was something but when you apply that to the society in a social manner, you can see how fascism can come out of it. You are talking about the situation now, the fear and anxiety that people are going through and the lives that are going to be lost, and look at the society after the Corona Virus, if we allow this ideology to stick then we are looking at real fascism becoming a mainstream and not just extreme right wing as we have right now. This is most worrying. We have to think about now during Corona Virus epidemic and how to fight it; but this is not enough! We must also think of our society and what is going to happen to us after the epidemic. This is very important.
SL: When you talk about “Herd Immunity”, people who advocate it believe it would be better if certain demographic groups, such as young people who are not as badly affected by the virus are infected by the virus, in order to build immunity against it. It is total rubbish because it advocates a pick-and choose measure! It correlates with the current decision which is horrific. In certain countries especially in Italy they are prioritising people who should or should not have ventilators, who should live and who should die. It is horrendous.
AM: That is exactly what I am saying. That is social Darwinism. They actually put doctors in a position of moral judgment. They are giving directives now as to how to deal with who you should let live and who be left to die. Just imagine, if this becomes the official policy of countries we live in, the future is bleak. How do you choose? This patient is young, the other one old, this one is disabled, the other one is abled, this patient is educated with a good job, and the other is a labourer with only GCSEs. Who does the doctor choose? This scenario is scary. Already health, and I am not talking about luxury, basic health is class based. People who are affluent and have means, upper class or capitalists are getting away with it. The working class, the deprived in the society are going to suffer even more. Loss of lives and livelihood.
In Britain some measures are taken. They have taken a few steps back from “Herd Immunity” policy but there is a big section of workers on temporary or zero hour contracts and what is called “bogus self employed”. They have no means of livelihood and are not covered by these measures. It is reported that 80% of salaries are going to be paid. This does not include the self employed and the categories above. Again, the relatively well off are OK but the low wage sector lose out, not necessarily by Corona but by losing their homes and becoming homeless.
The unfairness and inhumanity of the system is completely exposed. It is up to you, me and people like us, freedom loving people to say stop! Enough is enough. We have to expose the system. We cannot just let it go away by itself. We must not allow this narrative to stick. We have to fight this narrative and replace it with our own narrative. This is capitalism, pure and simple.
SL: Capitalism is based on capital accumulation and profit and not based on needs of the society. When I said Corona Virus has exposed the nature of capitalism, one example of it is the issue of Ventilators. They are vital in the treatment of people with the Virus. There is a lack of Ventilators. When you look at places like UK where you think it is well equipped with medical provisions, it is actually short of Ventilators. Now, suddenly, out of the blue, it is possible for a car manufacturing factory to halt car manufacture and instead produce Ventilators. So, one cannot help but question why these things could not have been done before the Virus outbreak? Why could the system and society not be organised based on need rather than profit? It is exposing the true nature of capitalism. What do you think?
Just look at the cuts enforced after the death of social democracy which was after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of Cold War. They heralded the post-Cold War era as the “death of Socialism!” This was not the death of socialism, but definitely the death of Social democracy. The era of social cuts, curbing the rights of the working class, privatisation and the total dominance of profit craze. Some call this Neo-liberalism. This only shows that how social, economic and political reforms are the direct results of a strong class struggle on the part of the working class. Now we are seeing the result of all the cuts they made. In France, there are only 3 IC Unit beds for every 1000 citizens, in UK 2.1 for every 1000, and in US similar to UK. It means, in situations like this, many people die because there are not enough ICU beds, or ventilators or there are simply no beds available at all in the hospitals. Or the junior doctors and nurses are not paid enough in many places. In the US, the situation is worse. Health is privatised. Health insurance premiums are very high. Just read a report that a 34 year old woman in US suspected of having Corona Virus went to A&E department. She was given a bill for over $34000 for two hospital emergency visits for Corona Virus test! The situation in US is going to be hellish because it does not have basic health care system or social benefits. In Europe you can still at least see some sort of health provisions. In that respect Europe is one step better than the US. The US congress still refuses to pass a law for sick leave benefits for all the workers. Trump is still pushing for cutting food stamps for many people even during the epidemic.
Capitalism is exposed but we should not let it take its own process. We have to push it and put it right in front of people and say this is capitalism. Capitalism is only concerned with money and profit. Capitalism is about masses of fortune for the minority, and poverty and wage slavery for the majority in the society.
SL: The other side of what is happening is the growing sense of community spirit and assistance that the general public are showing disregarding what the governments are saying. A sense of cooperation and helping your human kind everywhere. There are even singers performing opera in Italy for those who are self isolating in their homes to boost their moral, even pop stars performing music sessions online from their homes. Some in UK have produced cards that you can download, print with your name and contact number, putting it through people’s letter boxes, offering your assistance to get the shopping done for you and dropping it outside your front door. This kind of safeguarding community welfare which is not directed by any government is rising. What is your take on this development?
AM: The Corona Virus disaster has a double edge. We can see how humanity is emerging from ordinary citizens. You mentioned measures in UK. Let me talk about the situation in Iran. Many people have died, and many are infected by the virus. There is no real help by the state. There is lack of any kind of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), like gloves, masks and other. Even what WHO or other countries like France and Germany sent to Iran to help, have all found their way to the black market by the Pasdaran or Lebanon or Iraq according to some reports. In UK people help their next door neighbour, in Iran people have actually organised committees of people who are trying to disinfect the streets, to make masks and try to help the needy and the elderly. I know some of the measures they have implemented cannot help as much, like masks must be professionally made to be protective. Sometimes the things they do or make is not professional enough but the spirit and solidarity behind it is encouraging. These committees are growing everywhere in Iran like mushrooms. I believe it is because of two years of uprising in Iran that has changed the morality and spirit of the society and the collective mental state of the society. This is beautiful.
In Europe for example, Ronaldo has given some of his hotels to be used as hospitals, Garry Neville in UK has given his hotels to be used as accommodation for NHS staff. If we do not put our narrative to it, if we do not talk about it in terms of class war, that is only charity. I don’t believe in charity. I believe in good will and humanity in people, but I do not believe in charity. Charity is a means to sort of take away the edges of what the society and capitalism do to us with religious hint to it. I am not saying people should not do that, don’t get me wrong. What I am saying is that charity is good, helping is good but open your eyes and see what is happening. This is capitalism. Governments are actually representatives or the agents of capitalism; Governments’ role and function is first and foremost to protect capitalism and the profit of capitalists. The ideology they promote is to safeguard the safety of capitalism and bourgeoisie not ordinary citizens.
You might say why do I keep saying that? Because I know if we do not do that and just say people are helping, that is fine and things will be OK, things will not be OK. After the epidemic, capitalism is already in a serious crisis. Some say it is even in a more serious crisis than in 2008. Let’s just see what happened then. They saved all the banks and bailed out big companies. What happened then? People lost their jobs, wages went down, social, health service and benefit cuts were imposed. Britain is a good example of what happened between 2008 and 2020. The same goes for other countries. This time it is even going to be worse. What we are going to see after the epidemic is going to be worse. Airlines in UK have reported that they stop working for a month or two. They have sent their employees home without wages. They have said if the employees demand wages they are going to be dismissed. Actually a member of parliament said to Richard Branson (the owner of one of the airlines) to sell his private island. But they are asking for bailout from the state! The airlines are not paying their employees, why do they want a bail out? Bail out for what? I am sure that they are going to get it because this is capitalism.
One very horrendous case that has been exposed is that two Republican senators in US sold their stocks after a government private meeting before the news of the Corona Virus hit the media. They made a lot of profit out of people’s misery. They are just going to walk around and think that they are very smart and clever. Nothing will happen to them.
SL: What recommendations has the Worker-communist Party of Iran - Hekmatist given to people in Iran?
The other thing we are trying to do is to force the government to free prisoners. We are talking about more than 200,000 prisoners. Some prisoners (about 50,000) have been released on very high bails temporarily. The authorities have said just to give them leave, not free. The government has given guidelines but the local “sheriffs” do not let the prisoner go. The lives of a lot of political prisoners and criminals in jail are in real danger. Reports indicate that some prisoners have died of Corona Virus in prisons. There were two riots in two prisons in Iran. In one of them the Pasdaran killed 20-30 prisoners and the rest escaped. We have no news of the other.
We are pushing for stop working in factories. Workers are still going to work. The CEOs and managers are staying behind closed doors but workers are exposed. In a Steel Plant two or three days ago a worker tested positive for Corona Virus. Workers in the Plant went on strike demanding the closure of the factory. There was a one day strike in the mining industry. What should happen is that work should stop but people should be given a basic income so they can survive the hardships economically. These are some of the issues we are pushing for. However, as far as the Islamic Republic is concerned, we have seen no move to alleviate any of the hardships for the people. The regime just adds to the hardship.
The political climate in Iran is so different from that in Europe or other countries. There is a great deal of solidarity among the people. There is great deal of anger and hatred towards the state. People were in the process of uprising in the past two years, especially past few months. I am sure this regime is going to fall, one day or another. The Corona Virus epidemic is going to accelerate that day. We have to look world wide as what to do. We have to fight back capitalism, and exposing capitalism should be our international universal slogan in the face of people’s livelihood.
⏭ Asar Majedi is a Member of Hekmatist Party leadership & Chairperson of Organisation for Women’s Liberation
⏭ Asar Majedi is a Member of Hekmatist Party leadership & Chairperson of Organisation for Women’s Liberation