COVID’s Long Economic Shadow

The COVID-19 global pandemic has been with us now for more than two years. In recent weeks, with winter in the Northern Hemisphere, the pandemic has once again gained momentum. The new variant called omicron is hyper-contagious. Hospitals and their ICU units are again filling up. The vaccines still provide good protection against serious illness and death. It remains very important to receive all the doses, two shots plus a booster for most vaccines — if possible. This time however the capitalists are determined to avoid business closures.

It appears the new omicron variant causes less serious illness and death. This may reflect that in imperialist countries a large part of the population has been at least partially vaccinated. In the Global South far fewer have been vaccinated, and many have already been infected by COVID and survived, gaining natural immunity. The same is true for those in imperialist countries who refused the vaccine. Or it might be the genetic code of omicron makes it inherently less pathogenic than earlier less contagious variants.

In response to the milder nature of omicron, the CDC has slashed isolation guidelines from 10 to five days. “If a 5-day quarantine is not feasible, it is imperative that an exposed person wear a well-fitting mask at all times when around others for 10 days after exposure.” In other words, if the bosses consider it not profitable for the workers to isolate for even five days, they can go to work sick.

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Jon Britton 1939-2021

My comrade, co-worker and dear friend died unexpectedly October 5. Without Jon Britton this blog would not have been possible. It’s as simple as that. Jon was much more than editor. To explain, I must tell how I came to know him and how he became my best friend, comrade, and co-worker for 46 years.

I met Jon when we were both members of the U.S. Socialist Workers Party during the 1970s. In those days the SWP was a quite different political organization. It considered itself to be a Trotskyist party, indeed the most Trotskyist party in the world. The road leading me to that 46-year-long friendship began with a problem posed by Leon Trotsky. So the story of how I met Jon begins with how I became an admirer and for many years an ardent follower of Leon Trotsky.

I was in high school when I read Issac Deutscher’s three-volume biography of Trotsky in the Albany, New York, public library. I had no idea who Isaac Deutscher was but I was very interested in current events and the ongoing Cold War from a purely anti-Communist perspective. I was a child of Cold-War America. The worst of McCarthyism had passed, but the witch-hunt atmosphere lingered. I didn’t know that Deutscher considered himself a Marxist. I did not know that Deutscher had once been a member of the Polish Communist Party and then a founder of the Polish Trotskyist Party. In 1938, he broke with Trotsky when he opposed Trotsky’s decision to launch the Fourth International. That organization was, in the mind of Trotsky and his supporters, the revolutionary successor to the Third (Communist) International.

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