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Pandemic Politics

Cover Art by María Medem
Under capitalism the workers have always been compelled to live in unclean quarters of the towns, where epidemic disease is rife. It was only owing to the dread that they themselves would suffer from these epidemics, that the capitalists introduced certain measures to improve the sanitation of the areas in which their wage-slaves dwelt. . . . Capitalism was only interested in the protection of public health in so far as this was necessary for its own safety.
— Nikolai Bukharin and Yevgeni Preobrazhensky, The ABC of Communism, 1919

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Front Matters

Front Matters

Mask On

Party Lines

Seth Ackerman

If Neoliberalism Were to End, How Would We Know?

What will decide the fate of neoliberalism today is not the extent of the economic damage the virus wreaks — it is the extent to which the virus transforms popular expectations.

The Soapbox


Email us letters — we’ll share them with the world (i.e., 50,000 subscribers).

Struggle Session

Cole Stangler

We’re Not Heroes, We’re Health Workers

While most politicians quarantine in safety, La France Insoumise’s Caroline Fiat is risking her life on the front lines as a health worker.

Means of Deduction

Means of Deduction

No Lysenkoism Here

Vulgar Empiricist

Virulence and Contagiousness

Deadly pathogens may kill their host before the host has a chance to pass on the pathogen. That’s why there tends to be a trade-off between virulence and contagiousness.


We Need Better Drugs

We’re in a race with bacteria to develop new classes of antibiotics. The free market isn’t helping.

No Act of God


Meagan Day

Hurricanes, pandemics, and droughts are acts of God. Private markets in housing, health care, and food — and the resulting deaths — are not.

Illustration by Ben O’Neil
Illustration by Ben O’Neil

The Black Death Helped Bring About the Modern World


Daniel Finn

The Black Death wiped out a third of Europe’s population in just a few years. But the peasants and laborers who survived wielded newfound power over their masters.

Reading Materiel

Reading Materiel

Patient Chart

Canon Fodder

Grace Blakeley

Every Economic Question Is a Question of Power

The links between business, finance, and the state do not represent a perversion of liberal democracy — they are an unavoidable feature of capitalist political economy.


Interpreter of Maladies

Here’s a guide to the words you should probably know, even if you don’t want to think about them.

Field Notes

A Pandemic Foretold

Thirty years ago, an urgent report about microbial threats to public health was ignored by policymakers.

Illustration by Christoph Kleinstück
Illustration by María Medem

When the “Unskilled” Become “Essential”


Jack Chadwick

World War II made the economically impossible suddenly possible. As our capitalist states mobilize for the pandemic, the Left has another golden opportunity for worker empowerment.

Is This the End of Neoliberal Globalization?


Nicole Aschoff

The coronavirus has scattered the pieces on the geopolitical chessboard, revealing the fragility of just-in-time global production. Getting back to normal is the last thing we need.

Illustration by María Medem
Illustration by María Medem

Viral Socialism Now!


Mike Beggs & Beck Pearse

Class struggle will shape how this crisis plays out, and the world that’s created in its wake.

Cultural Capital

Cultural Capital

Streaming Away the Misery

Red Channels

Eileen Jones

Beautifying the Apocalypse

In films like Annihilation and Ex Machina, director Alex Garland knows how to make the end of the world look majestic. But his new show, Devs, gives a grace and dignity to the apocalypse that you won’t find in our own world.

Ways of Seeing

Owen Hatherley

It Came From Canada!

David Cronenberg’s first three films track the progress of epidemics “from the perspective of the disease.” What they reveal is a North American society already on the brink of disaster.

The Tumbrel

The Tumbrel

Identifying the Pathogen


Branko Marcetic

Corona C.R.E.A.M.

With the appalling Senate scandal over coronavirus insider trading, it is no longer possible to deny it: we are governed by a caste of the unimaginably rich, far removed from our realities.


David Broder

The New Thatcherites

Across Europe, the far right is insisting on the need for a more powerful state — but on terms that will crush millions of workers.



Stay Safe, We’ll See You Next Issue

Popular Front

Ellen Engelstad

Krona Virus

A magic money tree does exist — and not just in Scandinavia. The question is who gets to shake it first.

Popular Front

Marta Fana & Francesco Massimo

We Set Amazon on Fire

Millions of people stuck at home means more orders for Amazon. But squeezed Amazon employees in France and Italy didn’t want to be “essential workers” — and they launched a wave of strikes to demand a shutdown.

Illustration by Dominic Kesterton