Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

CoronaVirus 2020 – Great Hunger (Famine) 1840’s – Irish Connections, Evils of Laissez-Faire Capitalism

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Joe Harrington Compares the CoronaVirus Crisis of 2020 with the Great Hunger (Famine) of Ireland in the 1840’s. Items needed by human beings for survival suddenly were unavailable, prices rocketed, and only the mega-rich could afford them. The Great Hunger killed millions of starving Irish people, millions of others emigrated. There is a connection – Laissez-Faire Capitalism. Resistance is Necessary.

When the potato failed during the mid to late 1840s there were other foodstuffs available. These were slightly out of reach of the hundreds of thousands of starving people but any chance of securing them went when the price of them increased by up to a factor of six. Only the extremely rich could afford the prices and hundreds of thousands died. We are all appalled today when we read of this but look at what is happening today with the less important sanitiser! The connection? Laissez-faire Capitalism – described as “an economic system in which transactions between private parties are absent of any form of government intervention such as regulation, privileges, imperialism, tariffs and subsidies”. Any regulations that exist have failed utterly to stop banks, vulture funds and financiers, billionaire developers and their cronies destroying lives, livelihoods, the health service and the homeless.

It is worth pointing out this, but it is also important to build community co-operation to beat the virus. We cannot depend on the 1% or their political representatives who have their eye and their interests elsewhere. If ordinary people are to build the movements that are needed to confront the rule of the super-rich we need to overcome the divisions the capitalist political and economic system has caused within our ranks. Our state does not promote co-operation as the way forward for society. Instead it promotes a dog-eat-dog culture and an everyone for themselves attitude. Even so, the thousands of people who are involved on a volunteer in their communities shown that co-operation is the default position of the human being.

This Virus problem provides with an opportunity to promote co-operation to a new level. Vicky Phelan spoke about this on the Clare Byrne Show the other night. While keeping them under pressure to put people before profit in dealing with this threat let us also go beyond the response of the state. We need to take community-based initiatives to keep the virus away from those in most danger from it. If we co-operate and look out each other in this crisis we will better realise the strengths we have when dealing with the capitalists attacks now and down the road.

Apart from this we need to keep in mind two conflicting ideas. We need to act as if we have the virus and don’t want to pass it on and at the same time we need to act as if we haven’t the virus and don’t want to get it. Not easy to do.

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