The pandemic continues to take a terrible toll on Russia. Since the invasion of Ukraine, efforts to contain the spread of COVID-19 have been abandoned. This essay has been submitted to the World Socialist Web Site by the Young Guard of Bolshevik Leninists, an organization of young Trotskyists in Russia.
On Tuesday, July 19, the press service of Rospotrebnadzor reported the detection of the new Omicron BA.2.75 subvariant in five people in Russia. The press service wrote: “The material was shown in July. The material was collected in the city of Moscow. The disease had a mild form in all patients. There are no hospitalized patients.”
This highly mutated subvariant of Omicron has previously been found in India, Australia, Germany, Great Britain, the United States, Canada and the Netherlands. With the Omicron BA.5 subvariant currently dominant in Russia and around the world, it is difficult to say whether this new BA.2.75 subvariant can be considered particularly dangerous, capable of causing another wave of coronavirus worldwide. What is certain, however, is that it is unlikely that Russia’s healthcare system will be able to continue to withstand the blow after blow of the pandemic.
According to official figures, which are important counts, the pandemic has already killed about 382,000 people in Russia. Estimates of excess deaths place the actual death toll in Russia at over 1.2 million, among the highest per capita death rates in the world.
In recent weeks, there has been a gradual increase in the number of official cases, typical of all initial periods of coronavirus waves, indicating a real threat of a new pandemic wave in the coming weeks and months. Since hitting a low on July 1, the seven-day average of daily new cases has risen 79 percent, from 2,941 to 5,264. Genomic sequencing data from Russia is only available until July 4, but by then the Omicron BA.5 subvariant already accounted for 33 percent of all cases and likely became dominant the following week and is fueling the ‘current increase in cases.
Officially, approximately 18.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in Russia, also known as an undercount. As is the case globally, the healthcare system has been under constant pressure over the past two and a half years. Amid this deepening crisis, the Putin regime is gradually changing its own propaganda. He increasingly ignores the issue of the pandemic, bringing to the fore the “special military operation” in Ukraine, where Russia is not only waging a war against Ukraine, but also an indirect war against the powers of the US and NATO.
According to the draft Russian federal budget for 2022-2024, Russia does not plan to increase spending on health care in 2024, while adopting a 7.1% and 8.5% increase in spending on “security national” and “national defense”, respectively.
It is possible that BA.5 or BA.2.75 could trigger a new pandemic wave. For the working class, the hard times of dealing with a pandemic are upon us again. The class struggle could deepen in tandem with the new wave, starting with health workers and then spreading to other sectors of the country’s economy.
While the COVID-19 pandemic poses ongoing dangers to millions of workers in Russia, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s government, as well as public scientists such as immunologist Vladislav Zhemchugov, have downplayed the seriousness of the threat to the population
Zhemchugov has repeatedly made contradictory and revealing statements about the pandemic. It is around these personalities that the propaganda that the coronavirus is now “safe” is built. In June this year, commenting on the origins of the coronavirus, Zhemchugov provocatively stated that it is impossible to completely deny that it originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
In April, according to Rambler, Zhemchugov claimed that Omicron would help “renew herd immunity.” Additionally, Zhemchugov stated that the Omicron variant would seek out a new host instead of humans. As with official international scientists, including Drs. Ashish Jha and Anthony Fauci in the United States, Zhemchugov said that Omicron could allegedly cause the last wave of the pandemic. Lately, he has decided to “correct himself” and expresses the position that the new wave will be the very “tail” of the pandemic.
All these statements must be examined critically. What are the guarantees that the new BA.5 and BA.2.75 strains will not be as deadly? What are the guarantees that the coronavirus will be permanently eliminated? Why would coronavirus outbreaks suddenly stop? And why should we ignore the threat to life posed by COVID-19? Under the current social and economic system, there are no guarantees.
These same conceptions were advanced by the Putin government. In January 2021, as the Omicron BA.1 subvariant increased in Russia and internationally, Putin declared: “The pandemic is gradually receding. The number of sick people is decreasing; the number of people who, thank God , have improved, it has been constantly surpassing the number of those who fell ill recently”.
Putin’s speech at the time was based on imaginary hopes that the virus will gradually disappear. But in June 2021, reality forced him to admit that “the pandemic is not over”. However, admissions alone are not enough. What is needed is a policy of clear action against the pandemic, based on the scientific method, not on the interests of the ruling elites in Russia or internationally.
Recently, since March this year, more and more regions and cities have abandoned all restrictions in the fight against the pandemic. What is quite telling is that all this started precisely after the start of the “special military operation” in Ukraine. Putin’s propaganda is now working in a different direction, seeking to shift the blame for all of Russia’s problems onto an external enemy. He is trying to “whitewash” himself and his elite while “denigrating” the Western ruling capitalist elite.
Putin’s message to the Russian worker is that if they are exploited by their own people, “in our way, in the Russian way, in the national way,” that’s okay. Exploitation and disease are only bad if they are the work of “foreign agents” and “Russophobes”.
It is clear that the policy of Western imperialism resorts to Russophobia as part of its anti-Russian campaign. However, every class-conscious worker should understand that it is not Putin who is the defender of Russia, but the international working class. It is their capacity for revolutionary action that can save the world in general, and Russia in particular, from the destruction of productive forces and cultural heritage as a result of the struggle for profits and spheres of influence between the powers capitalists
The Putin regime has no way out of the country’s current crisis. It is only capable of adventurous actions, such as the invasion of Ukraine, which ultimately plays into the hands of Western imperialism and does nothing to stop its desire for future expansion against Russia and China. Their “social” policy is just a handout policy, which will not work for long with the rising food cost inflation that is hitting the majority of the population hard.
The world bourgeoisie in general, and the Russian bourgeoisie in particular, are incapable of solving any of the impending crises characteristic of the current era of capitalism. This applies to both persistent economic crises and pandemics, social inequality, the impending ecological apocalypse at the end of this century, the threat of a new global nuclear war, and much more.
Each of these problems has an international character. The bourgeoisie, in its essence, is narrowly nationalistic. One of the main contradictions driving humanity towards a new world war is the contradiction between globalized social production and the division of the world economic system into hostile nation-states. The hostility of these states to each other stems from their capitalist character. In each country, capitalists seek to extract as much profit as possible, without taking into account social, global needs.
Only the working class is capable of solving the problems facing humanity. However, in order for the working class to realize its potential, it must realize that without a revolutionary organization, which is in a strictly proletarian and socialist position, this is impossible.
It is for this reason that all sympathizers of the cause of the working class, if they wish to cooperate fully in the struggle for socialism, should contact the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) and help it to build or develop a section in the country where the aspiring fighter for the cause of socialism resides.
In these people began the work of building a section of the ICFI in Russia. It was about these people that the Turkish section was recently formed.
Be part of the fight against capitalism, imperialism and war together with the ICFI!
Only by uniting the working class can its historic mission be achieved!