How socialist countries fight disease

Lao Deputy Prime Minister Kikeo Khaykhamphithoune and Chinese Ambassador Jiang Zaidong welcome a team of Chinese medical experts bringing medical supplies to combat COVID-19, in Vientiane, Laos, May 4, 2021. Photo: Xinhua/Zhang Jianhua

Around 7.5 million people live in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic as compared to 8.8 million people residing in New York City. While 756 people in Laos have died from COVID-19, 40,365 New Yorkers died from it ― 53 times as many

How does Laos do it? More bombs fell on Laos than any other country in history. 

Two million tons of cluster bombs were dropped on the Asian country by the United States military from 1964 to 1973. That’s more bombs than were dropped by all sides during World War II.

What did Laotians do to the U.S. to deserve such terror? At least 50,000 people died from the bombing. Another 20,000 have died or been injured from the initially unexploded munitions in the 49 years since the war. 

The not-so-secret weapon that Laos uses against disease is socialism. Encouraging people to organize themselves is a requirement to build a socialist society.

Trade unions, women’s associations and youth groups work with the communist party to carry out COVID-19 testing and vaccinations.

Over 1,100 years ago the Iranian scientist Ibn Sina ― also known as Abu Ali Sina or Avicenna ― advocated isolating sick people to stop the spread of disease. Although this was centuries before the invention of microscopes, the Muslim scholar thought that small organisms were responsible for infections.

In the socialist People’s Republic of China, entire cities with populations of millions were shut down to stop COVID. But nobody starved. Unarmed police in Wuhan delivered meals to residents.

Socialist Cuba developed five different vaccines against the coronavirus. Before its 1959 revolution Cuba wasn’t able to manufacture aspirin.

Volunteers in the Socialist Republic of Vietnam carried out massive testing and tracing to hold back the virus. People are being mobilized in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to fight the latest variant of COVID-19.

These five socialist countries have a total population of 1.55 billion people. That’s almost a fifth of the human race. Yet they account for little more than one percent of the 6.3 million people who have been counted as dying of COVID-19. 

People before profits

Before their 1949 socialist revolution, Chinese people lived to be on average just 36 years old. By 2022, life expectancy had more than doubled to reach 77.3 years.

China was plagued by diseases before liberation. The parasitic disease schistosomiasis infected over 12 million people and threatened many more.

Millions of volunteers waded into rivers to root out fresh water snails that harbored the parasite. (See “Away With All Pests”, by Dr. Joshua Horn, published by Monthly Review Press.)

Capitalists dread such mass mobilizations. Trump wanted to send troops to shoot people who were demanding Black Lives Matter.

Slave masters prohibited funerals of enslaved Africans. The plantation owners feared that people would discuss how to rise up.

Centuries before capitalism, a Roman governor called Pliny the Younger wrote to Emperor Trajan. Pliny asked if he could allow the formation of a volunteer fire fighting company. 

Even though fires in wooden buildings were frequent, Trajan prohibited such activity because the volunteers would talk politics. 

Racist cops often don’t even allow Black and Brown youth to gather on street corners. In contrast, socialism requires peoples’ power – which includes youth getting together, whether to discuss world politics or play basketball.

The wealthy and powerful thought it was awful to shut down parts of the capitalist economy to stop the spread of COVID-19. To them profits are more precious than life.

Typical of their class was California lawyer Scott McMillan. Referring to the elderly, he tweeted: “The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5 percent of the population which is (1) generally expensive to maintain, and (2) not productive.” 

Seniors and disabled people are considered roadkill by banksters and billionaires. The rich don’t care that one out of 35 people aged 85 years or older in the United States has died of COVID-19.

In socialist countries both older folk and youth are treasured. Cuba is proud that more than 2,000 of its people are over 100 years old

Remarkable success in combating COVID-19 was also carried out by people’s governments of Nicaragua, Venezuela and Zimbabwe. This is despite these countries suffering from vicious economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and European Union. Wall Street continues to economically blockade Cuba and People’s Korea. 

Capitalism is unwilling and unable to fight pandemics. We need socialism to do that. Always remember what Laos was able to accomplish despite the mass murder conducted by the U.S.

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