few months ago, the question of the prospects for the return of socialism seemed ludicrous and irrational. Nevertheless, especially in the aftermath of the fierce battle of coronavirus, socialism has reappeared, even if it is in different forms than it was in the 19th and 20th Centuries.
Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic made people hope once again for the return of the role of the state and its government institutions to get out of this crisis. Especially since the private sector and businessmen do not care at all about the values of human development, care, and protection. The values of capitalism are concerned only with competition and material gain, and nothing else. For this reason, many politicians and economists resisted the measures to prevent coronavirus, which would surely cause great losses to the capitalists, who decided to sacrifice the lives of workers and all human values for the sake of material gains only.
Most importantly, the coronavirus epidemic has clearly shown the negative aspects of the capitalist system, especially in the health sector. The failure of the health system in the West to deal with the coronavirus is a natural result after Western countries abandoned their responsibilities in a fundamental matter such as human health, by privatizing it and leaving it as a commodity subject to the forces of the commercial market, with only deficient health insurance systems. This led to insanely high prices for treatment and medicines and to a severe shortage of strategic medical materials that private hospitals do not care about storing, as they may not be used at times without taking into account emergency cases. This is what the coronavirus pandemic has revealed and made the West, with all its economic capabilities, unable to provide the necessary medical care to its citizens.
These reasons led the Western government once again to blatantly intervene in the market, as both the United States and Germany allocated a huge package of aid to support the failing companies. France also announced that the government is ready to propose all means to support major companies, including the nationalization of some of these companies. Italy also announced the possibility of nationalizing Air Italy and establishing a new company run by the Ministry of Economy.
This is not the first time Western countries have intervened in the market. This also happened in 2008, after the mortgage crisis and bankruptcy of financial institutions in the United States nearly destroyed the global financial system. At that time, the ultra-liberal Bush administration had to swallow what is considered the “deadly poison”, which is state interference in the economy, by injecting a trillion dollars into the hardened arteries of the American economy.
To a large extent, the great similarity between the 2008 crisis and the global economic crisis due to coronavirus today is what puts capitalism in a critical situation, as it has been proven to everyone that this system is incapable of facing crises and is vulnerable to collapse under any circumstances. Therefore, the question about the future of the capitalist system, especially after the end of the Coronavirus crisis, is the most important question for everyone today.
Perhaps this question is what made The Lehman Trilogy by Italian novelist and playwright Stefano Massini one of the most important plays that will be shown on Broadway next September. This is as the play deals with the story of the most famous family and company that changed the economy and even the whole world but collapsed due to the financial crisis in 2008. However, the play does not focus on this turbulent time. Instead, the writer turns the company’s history into a lament about the tragedy of American capitalism.
Today, capitalism stands at a crossroads as the concept of the role of the state is beginning to resurface. Certainly, the coronavirus will not end the capitalist system, but it will undoubtedly reshape it. Some companies will disappear, others will join larger companies, and some will be acquired by the state to save capital investments. Thus, this epidemic will strengthen the role of the state and enhance nationalism, as all governments will certainly adopt new measures to get out of this crisis and avoid future crises.
Dr. Marwa El-Shinawy: Assistant Professor at International American University for Specialized Studies (IAUS)