COVID-19: War on the Working Class

Money moguls and their servants are willing to add workers to the growing list of victims of a killer virus for the sake of their stock portfolios, writes Greg Godels. 

“Whoever eats up, robs, and steals the nourishment of another, that man commits as great a murder… as he who starves a man or utterly undoes him. Such does a usurer, and sits the while safe on his stool, when he ought rather to be hanging on the gallows, and be eaten by as many ravens as he has stolen guilders, if only there were so much flesh on him, that so many ravens could stick their beaks in and share it. Meanwhile, we hang the small thieves…. Little thieves are put in the stocks, great thieves go flaunting in gold and silk…. Therefore is there, on this earth, no greater enemy of man (after the devil) than a gripe-money, and usurer, for he wants to be God over all men…. a usurer and money-glutton, such a one would have the whole world perish of hunger and thirst, misery and want, so far as in him lies, so that he may have all to himself, and every one may receive from him as from a God, and be his serf for ever… Usury is a great huge monster, like a werewolf, who lays waste all… And since we break on the wheel, and behead highwaymen, murderers and housebreakers, how much more ought we to break on the wheel and kill…. hunt down, curse and behead all usurers.” (Martin Luther, excerpted from a footnote in Marx’s “Capital,” volume I.)

President Donald J. Trump joins a roundtable with Vice President Mike Pence and CEOs in the Cabinet Room, March 30, 2020, to discuss public-private partnership efforts to respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. (White House)

By Greg Godels
ZZ’s blog

According to Bloomberg Newsthe billionaire hedge-fund and private equity-fund managers who met with President Donald Trump on March 24, “are getting impatient with the national economic shutdown caused by coronavirus…”. They urged that workers be released to return to their jobs from the government lockdown. The “concerned” billionaires, along with the president, do not want “the cure to be worse than the problem.” 

Another super-rich “humanitarian,” David Neeleman, a JetBlue and WestJet founder and currently an international airline mogul, voiced similar concerns to Bloomberg News, appealing to the plight of the neglected working man and woman: 

“‘There’s too much confusion — nobody has jobs, people are losing their houses, kids are home from school,” he said by phone. ‘What we’re doing today, we have the worst of all worlds.’” No doubt U.S. workers, threatened by a deadly virus, believe that Neeleman is only speaking for their interests.

Bill Hurley, a general partner in Benchmark Capital, a big-time investor in cutting edge startups with upwards of $3 billion in investments, also advocates for the common man, urging a restart to business. He foresees bankruptcies and suicides. He reminds us that “risk is relative.” It sure is, when you are willing to risk the lives of workers to get investments up and running.

William Ackman, another billionaire hedge-fund manager, posturing as a voice of compromise, says that we should impose a strict shutdown for two weeks more than the president suggests, but then send everyone back to work.

He tells CNN:

“Do we risk sort of dragging this out and really crushing capitalism if we can’t fix it now and then move on and have it behind us? Yes. So the president is right… I call it the rip-the-Band-Aid-off strategy.”

Some have noted that Ackman had earlier made millions on bets against the economy after he had alerted CNBC and its audience that “hell is coming” with the virus. Nothing like leaping on opportunities!

Then there is the former CEO of Goldman Sachs, Lloyd Blankfein, who earned his spurs profitably selling financial garbage to his clients, a strategy that navigated his company through the crisis shoals of 2007-2008. Blankfein’s deep sense of justice raises the alarm that “crushing the economy, jobs and morale is also a health issue-and beyond.”

Instead, he offers this nugget of sagacity:

“Within a very few weeks let those with a lower risk to the disease return to work.”

Lower risk? Mr. Blankfein, who is to decide? Not risk-free? Should workers leave their hospital beds to keep the wheels of industry spinning?

The White House economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, like his boss, a former TV personality, but with deep ties to Wall Street, offers an assurance:

“We’re not abandoning the health professionals’ advice but there is a clamor to try to re-open the economy, perhaps make it less of a shut-in.”

Yes, a “clamor,” a clamor from the capitalists to ignore the health professionals and restore the accumulation process immediately.  

Among the White House leadership pushing hardest for sending workers back into the teeth of the coronavirus gale are Domestic Policy Council Director Joe Grogan and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. Grogan is a former lobbyist for a big pharma corporation and the point man for dismantling the already-inadequate national health care plan known as ObamaCare; just the person you would look to in order to protect working people from a viral plague.

And Mnunchin, a second-generation Goldman Sachs executive and hedge funder, has never demonstrated compassion for those working for a living. Not surprisingly, he is leading the charge against health professionals in the government who have relevant knowledge beyond shoveling wealth to Wall Street.

Martin Luther, detail from oil painting, 1529, by Lucas Cranach The Elder. (Uffizi, Wikimedia Commons)

Apparently nothing is learned from the death of three autoworkers from COVID-19 while they continued to make profits for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles well after the life-or-death threat became apparent. They are among the first U.S. martyrs to capitalist greed in this unprecedented crisis (Ford has announced plans to open now-closed plants on April 14 despite the geometrically expanding contagion).

The $2.1 trillion “Emergency Aid Bill” concocted by the U.S. Congress bears the stamp of the majority millionaires and multi-millionaires constituting the elected U.S. government and other top executive and judicial functionaries. With less than a third of the aid earmarked for unemployment insurance, direct payments to households, hospitals, veterans’ care, and public transit and the rest for government and corporations, it is crystal clear where their priorities lie. 

As economist Jack Rasmus notes, adding the Federal Reserve’s bailout program to the congressional plan:

“…the Federal Reserve US central bank has quickly allocated no less than $6.2 Trillion so far to bail out the banks and investors, even before they fail this time. And promises to do more if needed and for as long as necessary. It is writing a blank check for the bankers and investors.”

Meanwhile Congress provides one-fourth that, and only one third of that one fourth, for the Main Street workers and middle-class families.

The unending hunger for accumulation driving capitalism reveals its ugly face most readily in a deep crisis. Whether it’s the mindless carnage of an imperialist war like World War I or the invisible threat to life of a new virus like today, the inhumane, anti-social, selfish soul of capitalism surfaces for all to see. Like the brutal, rigid generals of World War I who relentlessly sent their soldiers into the killing fields for the sake of their vanity, today’s money moguls and their servants are willing to add workers onto the growing list of victims of a killer virus for the sake of their stock portfolios.

Where Martin Luther wrote — cited above — of “a usurer and money-glutton, such a one would have the whole world perish of hunger and thirst, misery and want, so far as in him lies, so that he may have all to himself,” he surely could not conceive of the unbounded greed of our bankers and corporate leaders. They go well beyond flaunting “gold and silk” by capturing an obscene share of society’s wealth. If Luther, writing in the 16th century, thought that we should “hunt down, curse and behead all usurers,” what would he have in store for today’s bankers and hedge-fund managers?

Greg Godels is a Pittsburgh-based writer who writes commentaries on current events, political economy and the Communist movement from a Marxist-Leninist perspective. Many of his longer articles are published by

This article is from ZZ’s blog.

The views expressed are solely those of the author and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

Please Donate to Consortium News.

Before commenting please read Robert Parry’s Comment Policy. Allegations unsupported by facts, gross or misleading factual errors and ad hominem attacks, and abusive or rude language toward other commenters or our writers will not be published.  If your comment does not immediately appear, please be patient as it is manually reviewed. For security reasons, please refrain from inserting links in your comments, which should not be longer than 300 words.

13 comments for “COVID-19: War on the Working Class

  1. Socratic-Gadfly
    April 1, 2020 at 23:24

    Given that Luther became a toady of the emerging proto-capitalist state in urging the nobility to crush peasants, I’m not sure why he’s quoted here. That said, Marx, unless the footnote is out of context, also gets him wrong.

    Luther’s comments about usurers, given most of the people who lent money at his time, aside from the Fuggers, ultimately was a medieval mindset, and doubly ultimately was anti-semitic.

    • cal
      April 2, 2020 at 09:18

      Part of the Medieval mindset was opposition to usury (even if it practically happened through all kinds of currency exchange schemes that groups like the Knights Templar and the leading families of Genoa and Venice practiced). Luther had a very simple understanding of politics and economics, but the quote isn’t out of context. He wrote a few times against usury and proto-financialization. Wittenberg wasn’t a proto-capitalist state. This is a misreading of Weber’s misreading of Protestant doctrine (collapsing everything into Baxter’s ideas as archetypical).

  2. robert e williamson jr
    April 1, 2020 at 17:01

    Much thanks to everyone at CN. That’s right I’m back, this time with more of an explanation for those numbers I spat out yesterday But first. My son was called back to work, for one day hopefully, in Springfield, the capitol of the great state of confusion Illinois he reports he sees far too many folks out and about in Springfield this AM. And that is just what I thought.

    Yesterday I posted that I thought deaths in the US could reach 1-1.5 million. And they may if everyone doesn’t practice wearing masks, the Chinese wear them almost constantly for good reason, maintain the lock-down and if one has to go out and about stay a minimum of six feet from all others.. IMMEDIATELY ! Plant your arses and stay put if at all possible. Got that?

    In this part of the country, as an example, Illinois, farmers are getting ready to enter their fields, that is if it ever dries up. They won’t be staying home and have constant contact with their support services. Farmers have maybe two shots to get their crops in, timing is critical for maximum yields, no second chances or do overs. They will not be staying at home and have constant contact with their support services. Their fuel, fertilizer, pre-emergence chemicals, seed deliveries, repair workers and so on.

    Which brings me a a second point. What I see as a very large problem can sanitation workers stay home? Not likely, for if they do someone else will quickly take their place. All we have heard since the days of Reagan is that our economy will become mostly a service economy and we have. Who do you call when your cable goes out, right, can this person stay home? We really need to start asking ourselves what is really important. We all need food its required for survival and that should be the measure we use to judge what is really necessary. I fear we are going to pay a pretty high price for the luxury of sitting at home on our collective arses and having everything delivered to us.

    This is common sense, something the Supreme Leader seems to be devoid of . Dr. Fauci is a miracle worker, he seems to be getting through this idiot’s thick skull.

    Even Gov Como of New York hasn’t kept crowds from gathering in NYC parks and charging down to the docks to watch the shop Mercy come in. Not good things ladies and gentlemen.

    If you don’t believe me look at those numbers in NY City again then.

    And to Joe Tedesky, sir you are spot on, great call!

    Thanks to all at CN

  3. cal
    April 1, 2020 at 12:58

    The sad thing about Luther is that he trusted princes (the ones funded and empowered by the banking houses of Fugger, Medici, et a.) to sort out and enact imperial law as the God-ordained magistrate. He was ok with the peasants airing their grievances, and sympathized with them, but raged against them when they sacked feudal lords for their tax revenues. It’s the naive trust that if only we get a good prince (read, elect Bernie Sanders) then it will all be sorted out, the heavens will open, and rain will fall upon the just 99%. Luther reflected the bad part of feudalism, in which the civil magistrate (like a massive land lord) is the government. But as the Peasants knew, the community had a right to call the magistrate to account. These two approaches reflected how the Reformation was received, but we know the end of 1525.

  4. Realist
    April 1, 2020 at 08:12

    Back in Luther’s day the usurers thought they were untouchable, even by God, for their sins. After all, they had bought plenary indulgences from the Pope of Rome. Their present day counterparts no longer believe in any force as quaint as God, but, because they’ve bought the entire political system including the judiciary, they’ve got each other’s backs and fear no man, nor social movement. Human nature has evolved very little since we took whatever we wanted, after bashing its possessor over the head with a stone handaxe.

  5. ManifoldDestiny
    April 1, 2020 at 03:21

    A perfect illustration can be found in Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece, “Paths of Glory”. Generals/CEOs sending their soldiers into the killing fields for nothing more than their vanity, and the subsequent execution of foot-soldiers/workers for refusing to obey death-sentence orders, indeed!

    It all amounts to nothing more than, “Let them eat cake”.

  6. geeyp
    April 1, 2020 at 01:09

    Perfect column for the events of the day. Martin Luther was always right on.

  7. robert e williamson jr
    March 31, 2020 at 18:13

    Sure enough Stan. the communists were comimg so we needed to be very affraid! It was all neo-liberal laissez- faire economics and using evangelical christians as a cold war weapons, still the mechanism persists.

    See ya later!

  8. robert e williamson jr
    March 31, 2020 at 18:03

    OK Drew the gloves are off.

    The governors of the states where industry leaders send workers back to work and violate the” lock down” need to be ordered to cease and desist.

    Other wise they should be arrested, no friggin’ bail sent to jail and give them a taste of their own bullshit, and held responsible for the human carnage that will follow.

    Currently we have one sure fire method of limiting the spread of this virus and it’s keeping well humans separate from those who are infected. Even one in this country is suffering because the idiot “SUPREME LEADER” did what HE WANTED TO DO.

    He has openly stated they he does not see himself as the responsible party for what has ensued – okay they who is responsible. Right him AND his minions.

    It’s past time to say screw this jerk and time to start the pressure to get rid of his stupid ass.

    The talking heads are talking now in terms of 200k dead here in the “GOOD OLE USA”. I have some really bad news for everyone, lets just say that no one goes back to work until it is reasonably safe, this way we should not see a very dramatic increase in cases and deaths which we will see if they were to return to work now.

    Based only on my observations of the rates of increase in deaths and infections and the dwindling supplies of Doctor, Nurses, and all things needed by those medical professionals I’m thinking the total deaths will be between 1 and 1.5 milliion, easily.

    Something pampered, self centered, exceptional Americans will find very difficuot to wrap their little brains around.

    You could ask the nations new hero Dr. Fauci but remember he has to play ball with the IDIOT WHO IS SUPREME LEADER, so he really can’t tell you what he really thinks, that and he may e doesn’t want to cause the panic which is surely coming.

    Jut remember once exposed you can run but you cannot hide. Once the Grim Reaper is upon you you are toast.

    Who is that knocking at my door? Nope not the Iraqis, ISIS or the Russians, nor the Iranians, Syrians, North Koreans or Chinese no one but none other than the Grim Reaper.

    Much thanks to our omnipresent National Security – Homeland Security Complex, yes siree!

    Building gallows sounds more and more reasonable as the time goes on. Building a guillotine costs ~ $1200 or one government check and it does a faster job, even though it’s a bit more messy.

    I’m not sure about the rest of you but I have proof the Supreme Leader gives not one shit if my family lives or dies and he don’t care about yours either. Like they say actions speaks louder than words, Supreme Leader’s constant espousing of bull shit and lack of action are my proof. He has had his chance. Enough is enough, now remember that big number, one which could have been avoided. We don’t have long to wait for the true number believe me.

    Thanks to all at CN.

    Will someone please shove a Dog damned sock in Mike Pences mouth for the sake of Dog.

    • navy
      April 1, 2020 at 07:20

      “The Swine Flu Affair” book.

  9. Joe Tedesky
    March 31, 2020 at 17:47

    It would be most advantageous for the common folk if all workers took an extra couple of weeks off and made that protested time off into a ‘worker shutdown’ to show the elites just who in the hell needs who more.

  10. Howard
    March 31, 2020 at 17:38

    Stimulus package contains something corporations have been baying at the moon for all along: payroll tax suspension or delay. Ergo, there is no better time to go back to work and start earning money for the corporations. Quick, before the people come to their senses and demand the excision of this abomination.

  11. Stan W.
    March 31, 2020 at 17:28

    I think I read this before–in about 1946–or was it ’47?

Comments are closed.