Macron’s pandemic speech and the politics of “social murder”
Source – World Socialist Website. In February, analysing the British government’s refusal to impose a lockdown to halt the spread of COVID-19, the BMJ (formerly British Medical Journal) wrote that the government’s response to the pandemic “might be classified as social murder.” It pointedly asked: “When politicians wilfully neglect scientific advice, international and historical experience, and their own alarming statistics and modelling because to act goes against their political strategy, is that lawful?”
This policy was on full display on Wednesday evening, as 31 million people tuned in for French President Emmanuel Macron’s primetime speech on the upsurge of COVID-19 now devastating France and Europe.
Macron was widely expected to announce new social distancing measures. Even before the surge, caused by the British and South African variants of the virus, COVID-19 death tolls were nearing one million in Europe and 100,000 in France. But with only 5 percent of France’s population fully vaccinated, cases have tripled since March 7, from 21,825 to 59,038 yesterday, according to Public Health France. This is equivalent to 300,000 in a country the size of the United States.
Before Macron’s speech, leading medical authorities demanded, one after the other, a strict lockdown. Epidemiologist Dominique Costagliola denounced Macron’s refusal to impose a lockdown in January, when two-thirds of the French public was polled as supporting a lockdown, adding: “It is naive to claim Macron is an epidemiologist.” Paris Public Hospitals, 90 percent of whose intensive care beds are already taken by 1,484 patients, warned that they are only days away from denying lifesaving care to thousands of critically ill patients.
The head of France’s Association of Doctors, Patrick Bouet, wrote to Macron an open letter. “Life can tolerate today no arbitrage, no hesitation, no betting,” he said. Insisting one can “still prevent the virus engulfing everyone,” he added, “a true lock-down everywhere is needed.”
The response of France’s “president of the rich” must be taken as a warning to workers not only in France, but internationally: the ruling class acts with utter contempt for human life. Macron’s speech, no doubt coordinated with the European Union (EU) and Washington, was an unambiguous refusal to take any meaningful action to halt mass deaths.
Macron acknowledged there is an “acceleration due to the variant that threatens to make us lose control if we do nothing.” However, he proposed only a one-week closure of schools before the spring holidays, followed by a week of distance learning for high school students after that. He also closed nonessential retail stores, while pledging that cultural venues and restaurants, which spread COVID-19, would reopen in May.
Macron’s attempt to pass this off as a lockdown is a fraud.
In March 2020, as COVID-19 spread across Europe and America, wildcat strikes broke out in factories in Italy and the United States and spread internationally. As France’s Medef business federation warned of “an extremely brutal shift in workers’ attitudes” and that management “can no longer continue production due to pressure from the workers,” Macron agreed to a strict, eight-week lockdown, closing schools and all nonessential production. Such lockdowns dramatically slashed the spread of the coronavirus not only in France, but across much of Europe.
Now, however, as thousands face a denial of lifesaving care in a wealthy European country, Macron is refusing to stop nonessential production and has closed schools for less than two weeks.
Macron also shamelessly applauded his own disastrous policy, claiming that he was “taking into account the consequences of restrictions on our children, on their education, on the economy, on society, on mental health.” Had he spoken honestly, Macron would have said he was “taking into account the consequences of social distancing restrictions on our companies, their profits, and our fortunes.” Schools and nonessential production are being kept open—not based on scientific evidence—but to ensure that corporate profits keep flowing into the financial markets.
Macron’s open contempt for medical experts and public opinion, however, is only an especially tactless version of the policy pursued by the bourgeoisie across Europe. The same day Macron spoke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was interviewed on television and refused to say how or when a lockdown could be implemented in Germany. Then yesterday, the director of Germany’s intensive care registry, Christian Karagiannidis, warned Tagesschau that in four weeks all intensive care beds would be full in Germany.
Tens of millions of workers in France and across Europe are being brought face to face with the fact that the EU is implementing a policy of social murder.
The outcome, and how many lives can be saved, will depend on how quickly the working class can intervene independently, mobilizing in the struggle against the capitalist governments of Europe for a scientifically guided policy on the pandemic.