Join the Socialist Party Join us today!

Printable version Printable version

Facebook   Twitter

Link to this page:

From The Socialist newspaper, 10 September 2014

Ebola virus: Victims of a failed capitalist system

Health workers in Liberia have been on strike demanding better protection from Ebola virus and improved pay

Health workers in Liberia have been on strike demanding better protection from Ebola virus and improved pay   (Click to enlarge)

Jon Dale

Infectious bodies rotting in the streets... health care facilities overwhelmed... health workers dying in shocking numbers.

These horrific scenes are spreading across West Africa. Ebola virus has brought terror to Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone and threatens Nigeria, Senegal and beyond.

Since Ebola virus was discovered in Congo in 1976 there have been seven outbreaks in East Africa. Two of these were in 2012, giving warning that a major outbreak could soon occur. Yet all governments were ill-prepared when this outbreak began.

The death toll has passed 2,000 - more than all previous outbreaks combined. 42% of deaths have occurred in the past month. This epidemic is out of control.

Yet Ebola is a tiny killer compared to malaria and tuberculosis, which both kill several million each year. But there is no preventative vaccine or cure and it is highly infectious.

Breaking point

Crisis measures are urgently needed. But the governments of all the affected countries are completely incapable of carrying these out.

Health services are at breaking point. Kailahun in Sierra Leone has just four ambulances for almost half a million people. Heroic nurses, doctors, gravediggers and other frontline workers lack enough personal protective equipment to prevent them becoming infected - and infectious - themselves. Nurses in Liberia have been on strike demanding protective clothing and higher pay.

The World Health Organisation estimates $600 million (366 million) could stop the epidemic. This is just 0.034% of annual world military expenditure (2013 figures). When governments talk of 'defence' spending, who and what are they defending?

Pharmaceutical companies make massive profits. They have not developed preventative vaccines or treatments for Ebola - a rare illness needing treatment for just a few days, hitting people too poor to buy drugs.

Of more than 1,500 new drugs that came to market between 1975 and 2004, just ten were targeted at tropical infections that killed millions each year.

Shareholders' profits mean selling drugs for long-term conditions to patients paying high prices, either directly or through tax-funded health care, like the NHS.

Potential Ebola treatments are now being belatedly developed. Rushing untested drugs through that were subsequently found to have serious side-effects could increase distrust of medicines already associated with neo-colonial exploitation and corruption.

Immediately needed is massive investment into health care - training and equipment to 'barrier nurse' patients and prevent them becoming dehydrated. Clean water is vital for hygiene and infection control.

A public health programme, including health education, is needed - not imposed by corrupt central governments or Western imperialism.

Viruses don't stop at national borders. A coordinated international response can only be achieved on the basis of democratic socialist states cooperating together, in Africa and across the world.

Exploitation and domination

Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone were all wracked by civil wars in the past 25 years. They are among the poorest in the world, despite being rich in natural resources. Centuries of imperialist exploitation have sucked huge wealth out of mines and plantations.

They spend more on interest charges to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund than on healthcare, education and infrastructure. 'Aid' comes with strings, demanding privatisation of health and other public services.

Nationalise 'big pharma'

What little research into Ebola treatment that has been carried out has been funded by the US Department of Defence, concerned at the threat of bioterrorist attacks. In 2013 the Centre for Biosecurity of the University of Pittsburgh reported that monoclonal antibodies showed potential to treat infections such as Ebola.

Sales of these treatments could reach $62.7 billion in 2015. 75% are for cancer or conditions like rheumatoid arthritis requiring long-term treatment. The only one developed for an infectious disease is for premature babies, who need six months treatment.

In 2012, these drugs cost up to $25,000 per patient a year. Changing manufacture methods could potentially cut costs by nine tenths. But "this is not currently a priority for commercial industry," reports the Centre for Biosecurity.

The whole industry must be publicly owned and democratically planned for need - not profit.

Nigeria: Neoliberalism has undermined healthcare

Protesting agianst IMF-imposed neoliberalism

Protesting agianst IMF-imposed neoliberalism   (Click to enlarge)

Peluola Adewale, Democratic Socialist Movement (CWI, Nigeria)

The World Bank President Jim Yong Kim wrote in the Washington Post: "If the Ebola epidemic devastating the countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone had instead struck Washington, New York or Boston, there is no doubt that the health systems in place could contain and then eliminate the disease." Spot on!

However, what he doesn't say is that this reality is a reflection of the crisis of capitalism, especially in neocolonial countries. These countries along with Nigeria, which also has cases of Ebola virus, are rich in natural resources. But the domination of these economies by imperialists and multinationals, as well as the implementation of the World Bank promoted neoliberal capitalist model that discourages public spending, has made it impossible for them to build strong health system against infectious disease like Ebola, let alone provide safe water and sanitation.

For instance Nigeria, Africa's biggest economy with a population of 170 million, has just four laboratories that are capable of testing for Ebola virus. But even these laboratories are reportedly only funded with grants from foreign charity organisations.

Besides, in the run-up to 2015, the target year of the Millennium Development goals, hundreds of Nigerians are still dying annually from preventable diseases such as cholera - a water-borne disease.

According to the government statistics, there were 22,347 cases of cholera between January and June out of which 288 people have died in Nigeria. These cholera outbreaks, which have been underreported in the media, reveal much more the monumental failure of the anti-poor, capitalist government than Ebola virus disease which has so far accounted for eight deaths in Nigeria.

Massive public spending on healthcare under a democratic control of workers is vital, especially in neocolonial countries. This is more imperative as evidence has shown that a strong health system, along with provision of safe water and sanitation, can reduce significantly the fatality and incidence of Ebola and other infectious diseases.

The Ebola crisis has also shown that without massive funding from governments and international agencies the multinational pharmaceutical companies will not produce a vaccine or treatment for Ebola even if all the clinical trials are successful.

This has also put on the agenda the call for public ownership of big pharmaceutical companies so that research and production of any medicine will be on the basis of the needs of humanity and not profit of a few. But all this will not be possible without a mass movement and struggle for socialist change.

The full version of Peluola's article can be read on

A tale of two worlds

William Pooley, the British volunteer nurse who survived Ebola virus, contracted in Sierra Leone, said after successful treatment in London: "I was very lucky... in the standard of care I received, which is a world apart from what people are receiving in West Africa at the moment."

Funding shortfall

The United Nations World Health Organisation's budget for outbreaks and crises has declined by 35% since 2010. WHO estimated that $103 million was needed to continue the fight against Ebola. But the agency only has a fifth of that available.

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

All payments are made through a secure server.

My donation


Your message: 


In The Socialist 10 September 2014:

Socialist Party news and analysis

Scotland in revolt against austerity

Scottish referendum: A mass revolt against austerity

Students: Fight debt, poverty & capitalism

Abuse: Cuts have robbed us of the time to talk to these young people

Bedroom Tax edges toward its doom

Government spending cuts deepen prisons' crisis

British leaders back expansion of Nato war machine

Them & Us

International socialist news and analysis

Ebola virus: Victims of a failed capitalist system

US: building a movement to end poverty pay!

Socialist Party workplace news

NSSN rally: Building pressure for coordinated action

NUT members angry at lack of October strike action

TUC votes for 10 minimum wage

Care UK workers set for longest NHS strike

Probation officers protest against privatisation

Workplace news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Tamil Solidarity Day: a great success

Labour lets down NHS protesters

North West marches for end to austerity

TUSC councillors back taxi struggle

Socialist Party campaigning

Socialist Party comments and reviews

Unison Bureaucracy Unmasked

Guardian story confirms councils can resist cuts


Home   |   The Socialist 10 September 2014   |   Join the Socialist Party

Subscribe   |   Donate   |   PDF  |   ebook

Related links:


triangleCapitalism's 'vaccine war' shows need for socialist cooperation

triangleFrom first wave to second? Capitalism's Covid failures

triangleNHS pay: 15% for all now

triangleCardiff West Socialist Party: Capitalism and mental health

triangleFight for the NHS


triangleSouthampton Socialist Party: Nigeria - which way forward for the working people and youth?

triangleBirmingham Socialist Party: Nigeria - which way forward for the working people and youth?

triangleWhich way forward for the working people and youth of Nigeria?

Capitalist system:

triangleCoronavirus - a workers charter 2020

triangleThe 1929 Wall Street Crash: When the capitalist system was on its knees

triangleChile: An outpouring of rage against the capitalist system


triangleAnniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

triangleLabour payouts: unions must discuss political representation


triangleBig pharma's profiteering holds back drug supply


triangleBooks that inspired me: The Fire Next Time


triangleGreater Manchester: patients are people not guinea pigs!

World Bank:

triangleGreece elections: Syriza ousted amid voter disillusionment


triangleTories using pandemic to shift lab testing out of NHS





Cuba: Covid-19 and the 60-year-old embargo


Nuclear weapons

Anniversary of nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki



Iran: Renewed wave of protests and strikes



Israel: Nurses strike and win


Hong Kong

Hong Kong: The fight for democratic rights


South Africa

South Africa: Building jobs and living wage campaign



France: 20,000 rally against Paris's killer gendarmes



Black and white youth rise up against racism - US protester speaks to the Socialist



USA - another cop killing of unarmed black man sparks widespread protests



Outrage spreads globally following US police murder of George Floyd


Hong Kong

Chinese state's imposition of draconian law reignites Hong Kong protests



Economic collapse leads to renewed protests across Lebanon



Trump, coronavirus, capitalism, and the presidential race



India: Fighting the curse of capitalism and coronavirus



Trump puts profit before safety (again)

triangleMore International articles...

Join the Socialist Party
Subscribe to Socialist Party publications
Donate to the Socialist Party
Socialist Party Facebook page
Socialist Party on Twitter
Visit us on Youtube



Phone our national office on 020 8988 8777


Locate your nearest Socialist Party branch Text your name and postcode to 07761 818 206

Regional Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern: 079 8202 1969

East Mids: 077 3797 8057

London: 075 4018 9052

North East: 078 4114 4890

North West 079 5437 6096

South West: 077 5979 6478

Southern: 078 3368 1910

Wales: 079 3539 1947

West Mids: 024 7655 5620

Yorkshire: 077 0671 0041



Alphabetical listing

August 2020

July 2020

June 2020

May 2020

April 2020

March 2020

February 2020

January 2020