Success of Cuba’s Fight Against Coronavirus

The following article is posted here from the CPA’s main site:

On the 1st of January, 2021, Cuban revolution completed 62 years. The socialist revolution carried out by a group of highly motivated individuals under the leadership of Fidel Castro and Che Guevara among numerous others in this small island nation in the Caribbean Sea in 1959 has since attempted to create an egalitarian society with a high standard of living for all its citizens sans exploitation. In the last six decades, it has survived continued imperialist assaults and built strong solidarity among its citizens. […] Today, the entire world is going through an unprecedented crisis in the form of COVID-19 pandemic which has left even the most advanced capitalist countries struggling to get past it. At such a time, Cuba’s success against the pandemic must be credited to its unwavering commitment to its revolutionary values of socialism, scientific temper and international solidarity.

A delegation of Cuban doctors arrives in Angola on April 10 to help the African country fight the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: Ampe Rogerio)

Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the world’s capitalist system and broken some myths. […] By contrast, socialist countries and governments have proven once again that they care about people and their wellbeing over anything else. Cuba, a small country with less than twelve million people, has established, in more than one way, standard of a successful fight against COVID-19. It did not only control its spread and provided free public health care to all but also took care of economic and social wellbeing of its citizens. It has also emerged as a world leader in providing aid to other members of the world community and helping them in their fight against the virus.

The success of Cuba’s fight against COVID-19 lies in its commitment to socialist values and scientific temper. The twin approach of considering universal public healthcare as a fundamental right for all members of the society with total trust in modern medical science in dealing with the disease has made Cuba a role model for the world to imitate. Its commitment to internationalism has proven to be contrasting and better approach than the narrow nationalistic approaches adopted by most of the developed capitalist countries who, unlike Cuba, have failed on every front and caused misery to their citizens.

Early response and information

Cuba’s success against COVID-19 is based on the fact that it was one of the first countries to respond to the WHO warnings and follow its guidelines with all seriousness. The early response included gathering and disseminating crucial information, acting on the preventive measures and developing a crisis response mechanism much before the actual outbreak. Cuba did all of it at the correct moment due to the socialist commitments to prioritise people over profits.

At a time when no one was talking about it, Cuban media was already reporting about the Coronavirus in the middle of January, a few weeks after it was first reported to the WHO by China. Its Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) convened a national-level meeting on the 24th of January on novel Coronavirus and created a National Working Group to keep a vigil and lead the fight against the virus. Immediately after that, the MINSAP started training doctors (95,000) and nurses (84,000) of how to diagnose and treat COVID-19. This was much before the first reported case in the country.

Cuban media and mass organisations started disseminating all crucial information about the disease and ways of its prevention, including the necessity of hygiene to people early in March. The MINSAP also declared a strict vigilance on all ports of entry tacking people with known symptoms of COVID-19.

The country reported the first case on the 10th of March when some foreign tourists were found positive. It had already set up a strong system in place to face any outbreak. Thousands of medical students in Cuba’s thirteen medical schools joined a campaign to visit every house in the country identifying people with symptoms and reporting the cases to nearby doctors in the mid-March. The medical students covered six million people, half of the country’s population, within a week.

Extensive measures and adequate compensation for all

When Cuba finally decided to impose WHO mandated physical distancing norms on the 20th of March after the number of cases had risen to twenty-one, the government made sure that all WHO norms are strictly followed. It had to face the economic impact of around 60,000 foreign tourists leaving the country in the wake of the pandemic compounding its economic troubles.

It imposed strict physical distancing norms and restrictions on the businesses and movements of the people. However, the government made sure that no one who has lost his/her job is left without help. Apart from suspending private business from paying taxes, the government paid all workers furloughed due to the lockdown their full salary for the first month and sixty per cent salaries for subsequent months. All workers in the private sector affected by the lockdown were given an amount equivalent to national minimum wages for the period of the lockdown.

The socialist government of Cuba made sure that no one goes hungry. Through its extensive network of neighbourhood stores, it served more than 3.9 million families with a food basket comprising of vegetables, rice, cooking oil, eggs and sugar.

On the 6th of April onwards when the number of cases started rising and reached 396 the government imposed stricter lockdown measures with the suspension of all non-essential economic activities. It mandated self-quarantine for all vulnerable sections of the population including the old and people with serious ailments. It also suspended the payments for water, electricity and gas services until the further notice in a big relief for the working people who had no substantial income to pay for these essential services due to the shut down of the economic activities.

The role of the mass organisations

Cuba’s response to COVID-19 pandemic was quick and effective. It has been able to control the spread of the virus and reduce the total number of deaths. In a country of more than 11 million, the total number of cases has not exceeded 13,000 and the death rate is one of the lowest in the world with a total number of 147 until the first week of January, 2021. A large part of the credit for this success goes to the crucial role played by different mass organisations affiliated to the ideas of the Cuban revolution.

The public action carried out by organisations such as the Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) with eight million estimated members along with the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and Federation of University Students (FEU) played crucial roles in spreading information, maintaining a constant supply of food and other essential items to remote parts of the country and helped the state agencies in executing lockdown measures. The role of thousands of medical students in identifying the infected quite early from their house-to-house surveys was crucial to check the spread of the virus in the country. These voluntary mass public actions created a community of mutually caring individuals which is impossible to achieve in a non-socialist country.


Cuba was one of the first countries to help provide the required medicine to China and several other countries. By the 24th of February it had provided 150,000 double dose vials of Interferon Alpha 2B to China alone. Several other countries were supplied the drug found to be effective in raising the immunity of the patients. But that was just a small part of country’s commitment to internationalism. Group of Cuban doctors, formally known as Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade formed in 2005, has defied the geographical and political boundaries during the COVID-19 pandemic and provided crucial medical assistance to more than two dozen countries as they have done before during the outbreak of Ebola and other disasters. The countries which received crucial medical assistance from the thousands of Cuban doctors and medical staff at a time when most of the capitalist countries were unable to even think of helping others range from Italy in Europe to Barbados in the West Indies. The Cuban doctors trained the medical staff in these countries and prepared them in ways of dealing with the pandemic.

Despite these efforts, Cuban doctors have faced vilification by the US instead of getting applause and recognition for their unparalleled work. This has prompted several rights groups and progressive individuals for starting a campaign for Noble Prize of Cuban Doctors.

Cuban vaccine

Defying the American sanctions and its commitment to science, Cuba has registered four vaccines candidates, namely “sovereign” or Soberana 01 which was announced in August and it was the first vaccine registered in Latin America and the Caribbean, Soberana 02, Mambisa and Abdala. All of these vaccine candidates are at different levels of human clinical trials and are expected to be available for the public by February 2021.

As per the announcement made by the Cuban government, the vaccines developed in Cuba will not be treated as private property or a source to make a profit as most of the other vaccines developed all across the world and will be available for the world as and when it is ready.

Above is the short description of the pro-people measures undertaken by the small socialist government in Cuba. Other socialist countries such as China and Vietnam and socialist government in the Indian state of Kerala have too adopted similar ways and successfully fought against the COVID-19 pandemic. In contrast, people in the world’s rich capitalist countries are forced to suffer an ineffective and inhuman system.

Friedrich Engels on United States Politics and the Bourgeois State

130 years ago, Friedrich Engels made the following observations on politics and the form of the bourgeois state in the United States. You will agree that these insights are still relevant today:

Nowhere do “politicians” form a more separate and powerful section of the nation than precisely in North America. There, each of the two major parties which alternately succeed each other in power is itself in turn controlled by people who make a business of politics, who speculate on seats in the legislative assemblies of the Union as well as of the separate states, or who make a living by carrying on agitation for their party and on its victory are rewarded with positions. It is well known how the Americans have been trying for thirty years to shake off this yoke, which has become intolerable, and how in spite of it all they continue to sink ever deeper in this swamp of corruption. It is precisely in America that we see best how there takes place this process of the state power making itself independent in relation to society, whose mere instrument it was originally intended to be. Here there exists no dynasty, no nobility, no standing army, beyond the few men keeping watch on the Indians, no bureaucracy with permanent posts or the right to pensions. And nevertheless we find here two great gangs of political speculators, who alternately take possession of the state power, and exploit it by the most corrupt means and for the most corrupt ends – and the nation is powerless against these two great cartels of politicians, who are ostensibly its servants, but in reality dominate and plunder it.

Friedrich Engels, 1891. ‘Introduction to Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France’. Marx Engels Collected Works, Volume 27, p. 189.

Deng Xiaoping on Mass Movements

An abiding question for Communist Parties is the relationship with mass movements. While Communist Parties need to be involved with mass movements, seeking to guide them as a vanguard Party, we also need to be discerning. Not all mass movements advance the cause of workers, and some actively undermine the conditions of workers.

Historical lessons are useful, especially since Communist Parties have more than a century of experience of involvement with mass movements. Each situation differs, in light of specific economic and social conditions, historical events, and political structures. A good example comes from the Communist Party of China during the Anti-Japanese War (1931-1945), which drew most of Japan’s forces and was the major factor – through massive losses – in Japan’s defeat in 1945.

In 1943, Deng Xiaoping penned an article called ‘The Establishment of Base Areas and the Mass Movement’. The second part (the longest) concerns mass movements and is well worth careful study. The article may be found in the first volume of Deng Xiaoping’s Selected Works. In the quotations that follow, we need to keep in mind that the context of the Anti-Japanese War is quite different. But there are also some deeper lessons that can learned. These concern the underlying principles of Communist Party involvement with mass movements.

The relevant material includes the following, with an emphasis on the vanguard role of the Party and the core role of education and consciousness raising:

What laws should we keep in mind in guiding mass movements in the base areas? First, organise … the masses while arousing them. Second, as soon as they have been aroused, make plans for and regularise the activities of mass organisations. Third, in arousing and organising the masses, pay attention to their political education. When the masses have been sufficiently incited and organised, we should shift the focus of our work to educating them in order to promote their activities in the struggle for democracy …, so that they will become a class for themselves, join the united front, take part in mass guerilla warfare, and consolidate the political and economic rights they have won. Fourth, keep the economic and political struggle of the masses within the scope of the united front. Without a proper understanding of the foregoing laws regarding mass movements and the need to guide the movements gradually from a lower to a higher level, the movements will fall apart and the masses will not become a class for themselves or safeguarding the benefits they have gained.

To summarise the principles espoused here: 1) organise; 2) regularise; 3) educate politically, so that they can become class conscious; 4) ensure that the united front is the horizon for economic and political struggle.

A little later, Deng outlines in more detail the relationship between the Communist Party and mass organisations. The key here is that the Communist Party maintains a vanguard role, especially in political leadership and guidance, but that the mass organisations should have their own organisational structure, leadership, and be financially self-supporting. It should be an independent movement that complements the work of the Communist Party.

We may put these points as follows:

1. Organisational independence of the mass organisation; political leadership by the Communist Party.

Deng writes:

Organisationally a mass organisation is independent; politically it must place itself under Party leadership. The Party, on its part, should strengthen political leadership over the mass organisation, but not act in its place. The work of a mass organisation should be discussed and performed by the organisation itself. The Party exercises political leadership over mass organisations through leading Party members’ groups, not by issuing orders directly to them … While affirming the organisational independence of mass organisations, we should guard against any tendency on the part of a mass organisation to break away from the Party’s political leadership or of a leading Party members’ group to assert its independence.

2. Direct leadership of mass organisations by the organisations themselves.

To quote:

In future we should see to it that mass movements are directly led by mass organisations, especially peasant associations. Party and military cadres sent to engage in mass movements should carry out activities as members of mass organisations or recommended by them. Only in this way can we help foster the masses’ sense of organisation, enhance the prestige of mass organisations and train more leaders from among the masses.

3. Vanguard role of the Communist Party.

To quote again:

At the same time, the Party should provide more effective guidance to mass movements by sending good cadres, who maintain close ties with the masses, to lead mass organisations, paying special attention to raising the competence of mass organisations at the grass-roots level. Since it is impossible to give equal attention to all mass organisations, for the present, the Party should particularly strengthen its leadership over the work of peasant associations, first of all improving their organisation and activities.

4. Financial independence.

Mass organisations should gradually become financially self-supporting, but the government will provide them with adequate subsidies. From now on, the mass organisations should be responsible for their own budget expenditures.

5. Complementary role of mass organisations.

A final quotation from Deng Xiaoping:

The Party should do its utmost to train junior and senior leaders of the masses. We should be aware that the leaders of the masses are our most valuable assets, without whom we cannot sustain the arduous struggles.

To sum up, mass organisations are not simply Communist Party organisations. While under the guidance and political leadership of the Communist Party as vanguard, and even with members of the mass organisations drawn from the Communist Party, mass organisations are independent organisations that assist with the struggle and enable consciousness-raising among the masses of workers.

Anniverary of the Cuban Revolution: The Beginning of Freedom

The following article by Eileen Whitehead is copied from the CPA’s Guardian Workers’ Weekly.

Although this initial uprising failed in its bid to dislodge the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista, it was the beginning of a movement that changed the world forever. Sixty-seven years ago, a small band of courageous young Cubans stormed the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago, in Eastern Cuba.

Batista had ruled Cuba since 1933 when he’d taken power in what’s been called the “Sergeants’ Coup.” He remained behind the scenes for a while, but became self-proclaimed president in 1940. To begin with he carried out relatively progressive pro-worker policies, supported by the Cuban Communist Party and the unions, but in 1944 after leaving power and living in the United States for a while, he returned to Cuba running for president again in 1952. However, when it became clear he was going to lose, he organised an armed coup d’état, and proceeded to dismantle his former relatively progressive policies and became the corrupt tool of both the Cuban and US elite, as well as friend to the Meyer Lansky wing of the Mafia. Thousands of political opponents were murdered, leaving Cuba at the mercy of exploitation and vice.

Fidel Castro Ruz organised 174 young Cubans – 138 to carry out an assault on the Moncada Barracks, and twenty-seven to attack a smaller outpost in nearby Bayamo – with the intention to seize the military barracks and secure its arms before rousing the rest of the population against the Batista regime. Several cars were organised in the early morning of 26th July to pick up the rebels but, despite meticulous organisation, the operation was beset with problems and discovered almost immediately.

Seeing that the attack was doomed, Castro ordered a retreat and the remaining rebels quickly scattered. Batista’s henchmen murdered about seventy rebels captured at the scene or later, with many others tortured, or put on trial and sentenced to various prison terms: Fidel Castro and his brother Raul received sentences of thirteen years each.

At his trial, Fidel in what became known as his “History will Absolve me” speech, laid bare the crimes of the Batista dictatorship, the illegitimacy of its legal procedures, and the responsibility of all people of conscience to oppose such a regime in Cuba and, by implication, anywhere. Closing his speech to the court, he said: “I cannot ask freedom for myself while my comrades are already suffering in the ignominious prison of the Isle of Pines. Send me there to join them and to share their fate. It is understandable that honest men should be dead or in prison in a Republic where the President is a criminal and thief. […] But I do not fear prison, as I do not fear the fury of the miserable tyrant who took the lives of seventy of my comrades. Condemn me. It does not matter. History will absolve me.”

Today the Isle of Pines is now the Isle of Youth (Isla de la Juventud), a centre of high quality education for Cuban and international youth.

A public outcry led to an early release for Fidel and Raul, who then exiled in Mexico to organise an expedition to invade Cuba, and in November 1956 they invaded on the motor yacht Granma in another attempt to oust Batista. Although that attempt also went seriously wrong, with only twelve men surviving, the movement grew, taking on the name of the 26th of July Movement in honour of the Moncada barracks event.

Eventually, on New Year’s Day 1959, the rebels were triumphant and insurgent troops headed by Ernesto “Che” Guevara seized the city of Santa Clara in central Cuba. However, Batista managed to escape and go into exile in Portugal where he died in 1973.

Ever since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, Cubans have suffered both military and economic attacks by the United States and some of its allies, in an attempt to overturn it and restore the old regime to power. They have not succeeded. Cuba has implemented socialist policies of great benefit not only for its workers and small farmers, but especially for its women and minorities. Beyond that, Cuba punches above its weight with international health projects that have improved the lives of millions in the poorest countries in the world.

Communism and the Environment: Engels’s Insights from Dialectics of Nature

In the 1870s, Engels gathered extensive notes for a work that he wanted to call Dialectics of Nature. His plan was to develop a more comprehensive project for the new method that he and Marx had hammered out since the 1840s.

Marx preferred to focus on economic and social issues, for which we now use the shorthand of ‘historical materialism’ (a term Engels coined). But Engels was keen to extend this approach to science, nature and earlier history. During the 1870s and 1880s, Engels did precisely that, alongside his heavy duties in editing Marx’s scattered drafts and notes for the second and third volumes of Capital. While he was still alive, Marx was fully aware of Engels’s ambitious projects and often commented on them.

Some projects were completed, some were not: Dialectics of Nature was one of the latter. What we have are folders with notes and drafts of sections. Although not a finished work, it contains enough of Engels’s insights to have inspired generations of communists since that time. Indeed, along with Anti-Dühring (1878), the work that we now know as Dialectics of Nature was deeply influential. The whole approach would come to be called ‘dialectical materialism’. Even today, it forms a cornerstone for innovation in Chinese science and technology.

Let us focus on one section, for which Engels wrote a full draft entitled ‘The Part Played by Labour in the Transition from Ape to Man’. Here Engels offers a brief sketch of the role of labour from the earliest human activities to his own day in Europe in the 1870s. Towards the end of the sketch, he outlines the impact of a capitalist mode of production on the natural environment. His main point – which he already saw in Manchester in the 1840s – is that the short-term drive for profit at all costs has a profoundly destructive effect on the natural environment.

This outcome directly affects workers. The position of the Communist Party today is that workers should have a safe and healthy environment in which to live. Further, this focus will ensure that the wider environment is healthy and robust in all respects – a win-win result. So let us consider Engels’s insights from 150 or so years ago, since they show already then how a capitalist system cannot address environmental problems.

The following passages come from Marx-Engels Collected Works, volume 25, pages 461-64.

In short, the animal merely uses its environment, and brings about changes in it simply by its presence; man by his changes makes it serve his ends, masters it. This is the final, essential distinction between man and other animals, and once again it is labour that brings about this distinction.

Let us not, however, flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human victories over nature. For each such victory nature takes its revenge on us. Each victory, it is true, in the first place brings about the results we expected, but in the second and third places it has quite different, unforeseen effects which only too often cancel the first. The people who, in Mesopotamia, Greece, Asia Minor and elsewhere, destroyed the forests to obtain cultivable land, never dreamed that by removing along with the forests the collecting centres and reservoirs of moisture they were laying the basis for the present forlorn state of those countries … Those who spread the potato in Europe were not aware that with these farinaceous tubers they were at the same time spreading scrofula.

Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people, like someone standing outside nature – but that we, with flesh, blood and brain, belong to nature, and exist in its midst, and that all our mastery of it consists in the fact that we have the advantage over all other creatures of being able to learn its laws and apply them correctly.

It required the labour of thousands of years for us to learn a little of how to calculate the more remote natural effects of our actions in the field of production, but it has been still more difficult in regard to the more remote social effects of these actions. We mentioned the potato and the resulting spread of scrofula. But what is scrofula compared to the effects which the reduction of the workers to a potato diet had on the living conditions of the popular masses in whole countries, or compared to the famine the potato blight brought to Ireland in 1847, which consigned to the grave a million Irishmen, nourished solely or almost exclusively on potatoes, and forced the emigration overseas of two million more?

The men who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries laboured to create the steam-engine had no idea that they were preparing the instrument which more than any other was to revolutionise social relations throughout the world. Especially in Europe, by concentrating wealth in the hands of a minority and dispossessing the huge majority, this instrument was destined at first to give social and political domination to the bourgeoisie, but later, to give rise to a class struggle between bourgeoisie and proletariat which can end only in the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the abolition of all class antagonisms. – But in this sphere too, by long and often cruel experience and by collecting and analysing historical material, we are gradually learning to get a clear view of the indirect, more remote social effects of our production activity, and so are afforded an opportunity to control and regulate these effects as well.

This regulation, however, requires something more than mere knowledge. It requires a complete revolution in our hitherto existing mode of production, and simultaneously a revolution in our whole contemporary social order. All hitherto existing modes of production have aimed merely at achieving the most immediately and directly useful effect of labour. The further consequences, which appear only later and become effective through gradual repetition and accumulation, were totally neglected.

The original common ownership of land corresponded, on the one hand, to a level of development of human beings in which their horizon was restricted in general to what lay immediately available, and presupposed, on the other hand, a certain superfluity of land that would allow some latitude for correcting the possible bad results of this primeval type of economy. When this surplus land was exhausted, common ownership also declined. All higher forms of production, however, led to the division of the population into different classes and thereby to the antagonism of ruling and oppressed classes. Thus the interests of the ruling class became the driving factor of production, since production was no longer restricted to providing the barest means of subsistence for the oppressed people.

This has been put into effect most completely in the capitalist mode of production prevailing today in Western Europe. The individual capitalists, who dominate production and exchange, are able to concern themselves only with the most immediate useful effect of their actions. Indeed, even this useful effect – inasmuch as it is a question of the usefulness of the article that is produced or exchanged – retreats far into the background, and the sole incentive becomes the profit to be made on selling.

As individual capitalists are engaged in production and exchange for the sake of the immediate profit, only the nearest, most immediate results must first be taken into account. As long as the individual manufacturer or merchant sells a manufactured or purchased commodity with the usual coveted profit, he is satisfied and does not concern himself with what afterwards becomes of the commodity and its purchasers.

The same thing applies to the natural effects of the same actions. What cared the Spanish planters in Cuba, who burned down forests on the slopes of the mountains and obtained from the ashes sufficient fertiliser for one generation of very highly profitable coffee trees – what cared they that the heavy tropical rainfall afterwards washed away the unprotected upper stratum of the soil, leaving behind only bare rock! In relation to nature, as to society, the present mode of production is predominantly concerned only about the immediate, the most tangible result; and then surprise is expressed that the more remote effects of actions directed to this end turn out to be quite different, are mostly quite the opposite in character; that the harmony of supply and demand is transformed into the very reverse opposite.

Branch secretary’s report at the AGM of 2020


The AGM gives us an opportunity to reflect on our work over the last year, but also on what a communist party is about – what is its core business.

First of all, it is a political party – its aim is to take power in Canberra. This is the aim of all political parties – whether Liberal, Labor, or the Greens.

Secondly, our focus is on the basic needs of the working class and the common people – it’s not rocket science – the things people need to live a proper decent life – meaningful employment, adequate incomes, transport, housing, health, education, arts and sports, access to affordable energy, provision of food and water, protection from dangers such as crime and natural disasters, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment in which to live. Basic human needs which have remained the same through the centuries.

When the trade unions formed the ALP in the 1890s they quite rightly realized they needed a political party to take power in Canberra and run the country to meet the needs of the workers and the ordinary people. Of course, history shows that the ALP was a failure in this regard, because in essence it always accepted capitalism and never challenged its power. Some ALP leaders tried to fiddle around the edges and brought in good things like Medicare (which has been under siege ever since). The corporations quickly got rid of these upstart ALP leaders such as Whitlam and Rudd, with his mining tax. Jeremy Corbyn, the recent Labour leader in the UK, who called himself a democratic socialist, was given short shrift. The Greens are popular in some quarters, but that party is not seen as having a widespread concern for the needs of the people, and of course it believes like the ALP that capitalism can be made nicer.

And this leads to our third point about our Party.

Thirdly, unlike the ALP, we say that peoples’ demands and aspirations based on their needs can NO longer be satisfied under the current economic system – capitalism. Under capitalism, the needs of the working class and their allies continually come into conflict with the needs of big business to maximize their profits. This is what is meant by class conflict. Examples – wages (recent wage growth has been virtually nonexistent while profits of the big corporations have continued their growth), working conditions (contracting, loss of penalty rates, loss of permanent employment, fragmented part time work, the gig economy, etc,); health, water, energy – the corporations want control of the provision of these basic necessities so they can make money from them; housing – the corporations (developers, building companies, real estate) want control of this sector, including public land so they can build large tower blocks for the rich – Honeysuckle which was public land, or big estates where they cram as many houses as they can in such developments in the northern section of Wyong Shire.

So, we say capitalism can no longer satisfy the needs of the people. We want to get rid of it, not reform it. An aim which distinguishes us from the other political parties.

And finally, we want to replace it with socialism-communism, a system based on the needs of the people, where the big enterprises are owned or controlled by the people through their government, and not by private interests and their concern for making money. We have something concrete to put in its place. We are not simply an anti- party.

When we see the CPA as a political party with its focus on people’s needs, then this gives us a blueprint for action.

1. Our propaganda must relate to people’s needs and their neglect or abuse.

2. We must demand that governments fulfil their responsibilities to provide for people’s needs. Pressure on the government in power is what political parties do. Of course, if we had communists in parliament like in Greece, we could do this much better and show clearly whose side we are on.

3. We must show why under our current economic and social system people’s needs are neglected or abused.

4. We must show how socialism would focus on and meet the needs of the people.

Last year we did so through leaflets and petitions – on Energy, Climate change, Banking, and Penalty rates.

Comrades, we are a political party. Let’s contest elections (without of course being under any delusions here), let’s speak up and demand the government of the day fulfils its responsibility to provide for the specific needs of the people. Workers and the common people need to know we, not the ALP, are on their side. Party members in mass organizations (trade unions, peace groups, migrant groups, student groups) need to be able to point to the Party and say this is the political party that is showing the way, not the ALP, not the Greens, not the Liberals. This is the Party that is making sense and best represents our interests. This is the Party that is in the vanguard.

Yes, we are not looked up to in this way at present, we are not leading anything. I’m not delusional. But the question is what we aspire to, what we aim towards, and how we work towards that aim. Otherwise the Party’s role becomes to submerge ourselves in the mass movements, or to tail along behind offering support (a bit like how we are always put at the back in May Day marches). Here the mass organizations like trade unions, peace groups, climate action groups are seen as primary. But comrades, nowhere was capitalism defeated by a mass movement. In Tsarist Russia, in Cuba, in China there would have been no revolution without the vanguard leading role of the communist party. Lenin studied the Paris Commune of 1871 and concluded that its failure was mainly due to the lack of a political party to guide the uprising. Comrades, we must work towards making – some would say our delusions of grandeur – the leading role of the Party a reality.

May Day 2020: A Look Back

While we celebrate a May Day of 2020 like no other, a look back at the history of May Day in Australia.


Norm Jeffery

Identification of the Australian labour movement with the celebration of May Day had its beginnings in Barcaldine, Central Queensland, on 1st May, 1891 – seventy-one years ago.

Communist Party marching May Day 1966.

In the midst of the great 1891 Shearers’ strike, the workers of Barcaldine in almost complete solidarity utilised the 1st May to popularise their economic demands in a united demonstration.

It is interesting to note also, that during the stormy period of May, 1891, the Eureka Flag was flown in Barcaldine.

On a somewhat broader scale was the first May Day celebration in Melbourne and for that matter, in any of the Australian capital cities, 1st May, 1893, was the occasion of a march to the Yarra Bank where a meeting was held. These two simple but dramatic facts, Barcaldine and Melbourne draw attention to the historic recognition and extension of the decisions made by the International Socialist Congress, held in Paris, 1889, to establish May 1st as the International Working Class Day.

Frederick Engels was one of the driving forces for this Congress. His indefatigable insistence, his influence in the organisation of mass Socialist Parties helped to make the 1889 Congress possible. But, the sponsors for the 1st May decision were the American representatives.

They came mostly from Chicago, where the United Labor Movement, fighting to win the eight-hour day, set 1st May 1886, for a general strike to achieve their aim.

It was a magnificent display of solidarity and many employers conceded the eight hour day. It was under the stimulus of this struggle that the proposal for 1st May was submitted to the Paris Socialist Congress in 1889.


So, as I have stressed in previous statements, May Day is associated with the establishment of the eight-hour day in America and Europe.

Australia, of course, pioneered the world in the winning of an eight-hour working day in 1856, when the building workers of Sydney and Melbourne registered a great victory.

But, May Day has always in its original authorisation and subsequent universal distribution, been associated with working class struggle. This is the paramount feature of “the day we celebrate.”

Lenin in St Petersburg stirred the workers into action in the early and mid-eighteen nineties, for better wages, improved conditions and shorter hours.

Frederick Engels stirred restlessly in his old age at the rising tide of struggle and was delighted with the 1889 decision.

He jeered at the fears of the rapacious bourgeoisie about the call for mass demonstrations on 1st May.

In Vienna the wealthy capitalists and aristocracy were so panic stricken that they hid the family jewels and other belongings symbolic of their ill-gotten loot.

Over the years from 1886, 1889, to 1962 May Day has expressed the will of the proletariat to fight for their demands, yet it must be recognised that May Day always meant more than that.

It symbolised class opposition to exploitation, poverty and hunger; it is identified with the against imperialism and war, besides arousing the masses to the inspiring solidarity of united working class action.

Therefore, it is not accidental that May Day becomes integrated with the victory of Socialism in the USSR, peoples of China and all Socialist countries. In these countries it is a great joyous day of the people pledging their solidarity for greater socialist victories and avowing their support for the proletariat in all capitalist, colonial, and newly independent countries.


Australians are thus marching with the multimillion masses irrespective of colour, nationality, or sex. Also, we identify May Day with our own struggles for the 35-hour week, higher wages, democratic rights, Trade Union unity and above all, a common determination for peace and defeat of the imperialist warmongers led by Yankee imperialism.

By tradition and practice it is just as much Australian as our native land. As Australians it links us internationally with the useful people of all lands – this basic truth is expressed in the declaration of the World Federation of Trade Unions and summarises our aims for 1962 May Day.

“Let us display united action in a strong and confident common front of the workers and trade unions for the preservation of peace and satisfaction of our demands.

“The working class of the world, acting in unity with all progressive forces can solve all current problems facing mankind. War is not inevitable, it can be averted. Peace can be preserved and strengthened.”

“Long live May Day, 1962.”

This article originally appeared in Tribune May, 1962.

May Day 2020: Letter from CPA Central Committee

Comrades come rally, May Day 2020

When the Communist Party of Australia Secretariat met on April 19 it agreed to call on all Party members, workers, left and progressive organisations, union and community activists to become active and vocal in support of May Day this year as part of the ongoing resistance and fight for Workers’ Health and Rights during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Our fight is for socialism as the only political and economic system that is committed to looking after all the people in the community.

The CPA will promote its Health, Workers’ Rights and Socialism campaign and will not allow the Covid-19 social constraints to stand in the way of working-class defence of health, safety and working conditions. Comrades and workers will find new ways to organise during this crisis.

The CPA gives its full support to Trade Unions, Worker Solidarity and left progressive actions on May 1 across Australia and calls all comrades nationally into action.

In Sydney and Melbourne, the CPA calls for full support of the May 1 Movement to get behind planned actions. All Party members should be involved in these activities through their branches.

The CPA demands the best health and safety for all workers who have to work during the crisis and protection of workers’ rights. The Party absolutely opposes workers paying once again for another crisis through government austerity being applied to a significant number of services and jobs in the community and employer aggression both now and when the medical crisis has abated. Workers must not pay for the ongoing economic crisis that the ruling class will force on workers. We will fight this attack all the way.

Capitalism and its market-based response to the current crisis continues to be unable to meet the needs of the people. This pandemic highlights those contradictions that seek profits not solutions that respond to the needs of the people.

The CPA seeks to build the fight to remove these negative features of society that are based on greed and massive private accumulation of wealth.

May Day 2020 will be a day of international worker solidarity and unity. Let our comrades take up the Party struggle on this day by calling to confront the crisis and achieve real change.

The Secretariat considered the changes to Industrial relations being introduced by the Morrison government, especially with regard to employers’ capacity to make variations to agreements (EBAs) under the cloak of the Coronavirus pandemic and rejects them.

Employers must not be granted a greater ability to erode the rights and conditions of workers. Any EBA variation must be voted on by workers and the capacity of employers to manipulate this process with only one day’s notice is unacceptable.

Workers of the World Unite!

CPA Secretariat, 19th April 2020

Joint Statement of the CPA and NCPA on the 150th Anniversary of the Birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

The Communist Party of Aotearoa (NCPA) and the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) jointly commemorate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, leader of the Great October Socialist Revolution and founder of the first socialist state.

Lenin and the Bolshevik Party developed and extended Marxism into the modern era against the revisionism and social-chauvinism of the Second International with new thought on imperialism, colonialism, the state, dialectical materialism, socialist revolution and construction.

Lenin’s contribution to Marxism and the advent of the Great October Socialist Revolution brought Marxism to the Asia-Pacific for the first time and inspired progressive forces all over the Asia-Pacific from Chinese youth to Vietnamese patriots, Australian workers and New Zealand miners to hold the red banner of socialism high in their own struggles.

Despite the tragic disappearance of the Land of Soviets nearly three decades ago, the theoretical legacy of Lenin still guides the Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific region. Guided by Leninism and analysis of the specific national conditions, our Parties construct a better, socialist future for the working people of our countries, and collectively, the region as a whole and in both Australia and New Zealand.

At the beginning of the new decade facing both new challenges and new opportunities, and during one of the greatest public health challenges the world has faced in living memory, it is important that we Communist and Workers’ Parties of the Asia-Pacific region take the time to commemorate the impact of Lenin on both Marxism and the development of our region.

We stand for socialism in our respective countries and the region.

Long Live Vladimir Ilyich Lenin!

Long Live Socialism!

Communist Party of Australia
New Communist Party of Aotearoa

China’s socialist system and COVID-19: The Facts

This three-part article was orginally published on ‘Independent Media’ (here). It is the most detailed account of the facts concerning China’s response to the identification of a new coronavirus and its associated disease COVID-19. The articles refers exhaustively to detailed Chinese sources, and is written by Weiyan Zhu, Du Xiaojun, and Vijay Prashad.

As you read through the detailed account, you will see that it not only refutes the effort to stigmatise China in some corners of the capitalist West, but that it also highlights the crucial role of China’s socialist system in combatting the outbreak. This included neighbourhood committees, central coordination, the mobilisation of Communist Party members, provision of food and other basic needs by state owned enterprises, the ability to move production quickly into the manufacture of medical supplies for the war against the virus. All of this enabled China to turn the situation around. In short, the whole project provides an excellent example of the difference between Socialism and the individualism championed in the West.

Part 1: Growing Xenophobia Against China in the Midst of CoronaShock

March 31, 2020

On March 25, the foreign ministers of the G7 states failed to release a statement. The United States—the president of the G7 at this time—had the responsibility for drafting the statement, which was seen to be unacceptable by several other members. In the draft, the United States used the phrase “Wuhan Virus” and asserted that the global pandemic was the responsibility of the Chinese government. Earlier, U.S. President Donald Trump had used the phrase “Chinese Virus” (which he said he would stop using) and a member of his staff was reportedly heard using the slur “Kung Flu.” On Fox News, anchor Jesse Watters explained in his unfiltered racist way “why [the virus] started in China. Because they have these markets where they eat raw bats and snakes.” Violent attacks against Asians in the United States have spiked as a consequence of the stigma driven by the Trump administration.

Quite correctly, the World Health Organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for “solidarity, not stigma” in a speech given on February 14, long before the virus had hit Europe or North America. Ghebreyesus knew that there would be a temptation to blame China for the virus, in fact, to use the virus as a weapon to attack China in the most repulsive way. His slogan—solidarity, not stigma—was intended to sharply demarcate an internationalist and humanist response to the global pandemic from a narrow bigoted and unscientific response to the virus.


SARS-CoV-2, which is the official name for the virus, developed in the way many viruses develop: through the transmission between animals and humans. There is as yet no firm consensus about where this virus developed; one suggestion is that it developed in the west end of the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, in China’s Hubei province, where wild animals are sold. A central issue is the expansion of agriculture into forests and hinterlands, where humans have a greater chance to interact with new pathogens, such as SARS-CoV-2. But this is not the only such virus, even though it is undoubtedly the most dangerous to humans. In the recent period, we have seen a range of panzootic avian flu such as H1N1, H5Nx, H5N2 and H5N6. Even though H5N2 was known to have originated in the United States, it was not known as the “American virus” and no one sought to stigmatize the United States for it. The scientific name was used to describe these viruses, which are not the responsibility of this or that nation; the arrival of these viruses raises the more fundamental question of human encroachment into forests and the balance between human civilization (agriculture and cities) and the wilds.

The naming of a virus is a controversial matter. In 1832, cholera advanced from British India toward Europe. It was called “Asiatic Cholera.” The French felt that since they were democratic, they would not succumb to a disease of authoritarianism; France was ravaged by cholera, which was as much about the bacteria as it is about the state of hygiene inside Europe and North America. (When cholera struck the United States in 1848, the Public Bathing Movement was born.)

The “Spanish Flu” was only named after Spain because it came during World War I when journalism in most belligerent countries was censored. The media in Spain, not being in the war, widely reported the flu, and so that pandemic took the name of the country. In fact, evidence showed that the Spanish Flu began in the United States, in a military base in Kansas where the chickens transmitted the virus to soldiers. It would then travel to British India, where 60 percent of the casualties of that pandemic took place. It was never named the “American Flu” and no Indian government has ever sought to recover costs from the United States because of the animal-to-human transmission that happened there.

China and the Coronavirus

In an important article published in the medical journal The Lancet, Professor Chaolin Huang wrote, “The symptom onset date of the first patient [of SARS-CoV-2] identified was December 1, 2019.” Initially, there was widespread confusion about the nature of the virus, and whether it could be transmitted from human to human. It was assumed that the virus was one of the known viruses and that it was mainly transmitted from animals to humans.

Dr. Zhang Jixian, director of the Department of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine of Hubei Province Hospital of Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine, was one of the first doctors to sound the alarm about the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak. On December 26, Dr. Zhang saw an elderly couple who had high fever and a cough—symptoms that characterize the flu. Further examination ruled out influenza A and B, mycoplasma, chlamydia, adenovirus and SARS. A CT scan of their son showed that something had partially filled the interior of his lungs. That same day, another patient—a seller from the seafood market—presented the same symptoms. Dr. Zhang reported the four patients to China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention of the Jianghan District of Wuhan. Over the next two days, Dr. Zhang and her colleagues saw three more patients with the same symptoms who had visited the seafood market. On December 29, the Hubei Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention sent experts to investigate the seven patients at the hospital. On February 6, Hubei Province recognized the valuable work done by Dr. Zhang and her team in the fight to identify and reveal the virus. There was no attempt to suppress her work.

Two other doctors—Dr. Li Wenliang (an ophthalmologist from Wuhan Central Hospital) and Ai Fen (chief of the department of emergency treatment at Wuhan Central Hospital)—played a significant role in trying to break through the confusion to bring clarity toward the new virus. In the first days, when everything seemed fuzzy, they were reprimanded by the authorities for spreading fake news. Dr. Li died of the coronavirus on February 7. Major medical and government institutions—the National Health Commission, the Health Commission of Hubei Province, the Chinese Medical Doctor Association and the Wuhan government—expressed their public condolences to his family. On March 19, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau admitted that it inappropriately reprimanded Dr. Li, and it chastised its officers. Dr. Ai Fen was also told to stop spreading fake news, but in February she received an apology and was later felicitated by Wuhan Broadcasting and Television Station.

The provincial authorities knew about the new virus by December 29. The next day, they informed China’s Center for Disease Control, and the following day, on December 31, China informed the World Health Organization (WHO), a month after the first mysterious infection was reported in Wuhan. The virus was identified by January 3; a week later, China shared the genetic sequence of the new coronavirus with WHO. It is because China released the DNA that immediate scientific work took place across the planet to find a vaccine; there are now 43 vaccine candidates, four in very early testing.

China’s National Health Commission assembled a team of experts from the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, and the Chinese Academy of Sciences; they conducted a series of experiments on the virus samples. On January 8, they confirmed that the novel coronavirus was indeed the source of the outbreak. The first death from the virus was reported on January 11. On January 14, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said that there was still no evidence of human-to-human transmission, but they could not say with certainty that limited human-to-human transmission was impossible.

A week later, on January 20, Dr. Zhong Nanshan said that the novel coronavirus could be spread from human to human (Dr. Zhong, a member of the Communist Party of China, is a famous respiratory expert and a leading person in the fight against SARS in China). Some medical workers were infected by the virus. That day Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang instructed all levels of government to pay attention to the spread of the virus; the National Health Commission and other official bodies were told to begin emergency response measures. Wuhan went into full lockdown on January 23, three days after human-to-human transmission of this virus was established. The next day, Hubei province activated its Level-1 alert. On January 25, Premier Li assembled a coordinating group. He visited Wuhan two days later.

It is unclear if China could have done anything different as it faced an unknown virus. A WHO team that visited China from February 16 to 24 praised the government and the Chinese people in its report for doing their utmost to stem the spread of the virus; thousands of doctors and medical personnel arrived in Wuhan, two new hospitals were built for those infected by the virus, and various civic bodies went into action to assist families under lockdown. What the Chinese authorities did to stem the rise of the infections—as a major new study shows—was to put those infected in hospitals and those who had been in touch with them into quarantine. This targeted policy was able to identify those who had been in the chain of infection and thereby break the chain.

The World and China 

The Indian state of Kerala’s Health Minister K. K. Shailaja followed the rise of the cases in Wuhan and began emergency measures in this state of 35 million people in India. She did not wait. What China was doing taught Shailaja and her team how to respond. They were able to contain the virus in this part of India.

The United States was informed about the severity of the problem early. On New Year’s Day, Chinese Center for Disease Control officials called Dr. Robert Redfield, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, while he was on vacation. “What he heard rattled him,” wrote the New York Times. Dr. George F. Gao, the head of the Chinese CDC, spoke to Redfield days later, and Dr. Gao “burst into tears” during the conversation. This warning was not taken seriously. A month later, on January 30, U.S. President Donald Trump took a very cavalier position. “We think it’s going to have a good ending for us,” he said of the coronavirus. “That I can assure you.” He did not declare a national emergency till March 13, by which time the virus had begun to spread in the United States.

Others around the world were as cavalier. They were like the French politicians of 1832 who felt that France would not be affected by “Asiatic cholera.” There was no such thing as Asiatic cholera in 1832, but only cholera that would harm people with poor hygienic systems. In the same way, there is no such thing as a Chinese virus; there is only the SARS-CoV-2. The Chinese people showed us the way to confront this virus, but only after some trial and error on their part. It is time to learn that lesson now. As the WHO says, “test, test, test,” and then carefully calibrate lockdowns, isolations, and quarantine. Chinese doctors who developed expertise in fighting the virus are now in Iran, Italy, and elsewhere, bringing the spirit of internationalism and collaboration with them.

On March 4, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who led the WHO team to China, was interviewed by the New York Times. When asked about the Chinese response to the virus, he said, “They’re mobilized, like in a war, and it’s fear of the virus that was driving them. They really saw themselves on the frontlines of protecting the rest of China. And of the world.”

Part 2: How China Learned About SARS-CoV-2 in the Weeks Before the Global Pandemic

In the early weeks when the virus emerged in Wuhan, the Chinese government neither suppressed evidence nor did their warning systems fail.

April 6, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic on March 11, 2020. Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the WHO, said at the press conference on that day that this was “the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus.” He said, “In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold, and the number of affected countries has tripled.” From March 11 onward, it became clear that this virus was deadly and that it had the capacity to tear through human society with ease. But this was not always so clear.

On March 17, Kristian Andersen of the Scripps Research Institute in California and his team showed that the new coronavirus strain, SARS-CoV-2, had a mutation in its genes known as a polybasic cleavage site that was unseen in any coronaviruses found in bats or pangolins and that there is a likelihood that the virus came to humans many years ago, and indeed not necessarily in Wuhan. Dr. Chen Jinping of the Guangdong Institute of Applied Biological Resources, along with colleagues, had earlier published a paper on February 20 noting that their data did not support the claim that the new coronavirus in humans evolved directly from a pangolin coronavirus strain. Zhong Nanshan, a noted epidemiologist, said that “although the COVID-19 first appeared in China, that does not necessarily mean it originated here.”

Scientific studies will continue and will eventually give us a conclusive understanding of this virus. For now, there is no clarity that it emerged directly from the Wuhan market.

The Western media have consistently made scientifically unfounded claims about the source of the virus, even when Western scientists were urging caution. They were certainly not listening to the doctors in Wuhan or to public health experts in China.

When doctors in Wuhan first saw patients in their hospitals in December, they believed that the patients had pneumonia, although CT scans showed severe lung damage; the patients were not responding to the typical medical treatment. Doctors were alarmed by the situation, but there was no cause to imagine that this was going to escalate into a regional epidemic and then a global pandemic.

The doctors and hospitals in Wuhan eventually came to grips with the evidence before them, and as soon as it became clear that this was an unfamiliar virus and that it spread rapidly, they contacted China’s national Center for Disease Control (CDC) and then the WHO.

You would not know this if you only read Western newspapers, notably the New York Times, which suggested in a widely circulated report that the Chinese government had suppressed information about the epidemic and that the Chinese warning system did not work.

Our investigation finds neither of these arguments to be true. There is no evidence that the Chinese government systematically suppressed information; there is only evidence that a few doctors were reprimanded by their hospitals or the local police station for divulging information to the public and not using the established protocols. There is also no evidence that the Chinese direct reporting system was faulty; instead, there is only evidence that the system, like any system, could not easily adjust to unknown or unclassified outbreaks.

The Chinese medical system, like other systems, has a rigorous procedure to report such things as health care emergencies. Medical personnel report to their hospital administration, which then reports to the various levels of CDC and the Health Commissions; they can also use the internet-based direct reporting system. It did not take long for the medical personnel to report the problem, and even less time for a high-level investigation team to arrive in Wuhan. This is what our investigation found.

Did the Chinese Government Suppress Information?

Dr. Zhang Jixian, director of Respiratory and Critical Medicine at the Hubei Provincial Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese & Western Medicine, saw an elderly couple on December 26. Their ailment bothered her. She arranged CT scans of the lung of the couple’s son who otherwise appeared healthy; the result, however, “showed ground glass opacity.” Uncertain about the causes, Dr. Zhang reported the situation to Xia Wenguang, the vice president of the hospital, as well as other departments of the hospital; the hospital promptly told Jianghan District Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This took place within 24 hours.

More patients arrived at the Hubei Provincial Hospital on December 28 and 29. The doctors still did not know more than that these patients presented symptoms of pneumonia, and that they had significant lung damage. It became clear to them that the immediate location for the spread of the virus was the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market. On December 29, as the cases increased, the hospital’s vice president Xia Wenguang reported directly to the disease control department of the provincial and municipal Health Commissions. That day, the disease control department of the municipal and provincial Health Commissions instructed Wuhan CDC, Jinyintan Hospital and Jianghan District CDC to visit the Hubei Provincial Hospital for an epidemiological investigation. On December 31, an expert group of the National Health Commission arrived in Wuhan from Beijing. In other words, officials from Beijing arrived in Wuhan within five days of the first sign of a problem.

The day before the expert group arrived from Beijing, one doctor—Dr. Ai Fen—expressed her frustration at the mysterious virus with some medical school classmates. Dr. Ai Fen saw a test report of unidentified pneumonia. She circled the words “SARS coronavirus” in red, photographed it, and passed it on to a medical school classmate. The report spread among doctors in Wuhan, including Dr. Li Wenliang (a Communist Party member) and seven other doctors who were later reprimanded by the police. On January 2, the head of Wuhan Central Hospital Supervision Department warned Dr. Ai Fen not to release information outside the channels of the hospital.

The reprimands received by these doctors are offered as evidence of suppression of information about the virus. This is not logical. The reprimands took place in early January. By December 31, a high-level team arrived from Beijing, and on that day, the WHO had been informed; China’s CDC and the WHO had been informed before these two doctors were reprimanded.

On February 7, 2020, the National Supervision Commission decided to send an investigation team to Wuhan to investigate the situation. On March 19, 2020, the team published the results of their investigation and held a press conference to share their findings. As a result of the investigation, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued a circular to revoke the letter of reprimand issued to Dr. Li Wenliang. On April 2, Dr. Li Wenliang and 13 others who died in the fight against the virus were honored by the government as martyrs (this is the highest honor given by the Communist Party and the People’s Republic of China to its citizens).

There is no evidence that local officials were afraid to report the epidemic to Beijing. There is no evidence that it took “whistleblowers,” as the New York Times put it, to shine a light on the issue. Dr. Zhang was not a whistleblower; she followed the established protocol, which led to information being passed on to the WHO within days.

China’s Early Warning System

In mid-November 2002, a SARS outbreak broke out in Foshan, Guangdong Province, China. Doctors could not easily understand what was going on. Eventually, in mid-February China’s Ministry of Health wrote an email to the WHO Beijing office “describing ‘a strange contagious disease’ that has ‘already left more than 100 people dead’” in one week. Also mentioned in the message was “a ‘panic’ attitude, currently, where people are emptying pharmaceutical stocks of any medicine they think may protect them.” It took eight months to contain this SARS outbreak.

In its aftermath, the Chinese government set up a direct reporting system to catch any health emergencies before they go out of control. The system works very well for clearly defined infectious diseases. Dr. Hu Shanlian, a professor of health economics at Fudan University, describes two such incidents. As part of the polio eradication expert group, his team found two cases of polio in Qinghai. The local government reported the cases to the central government, and it began emergency immunization as well as gave children a sugar cube vaccine to effectively control the imported poliomyelitis. As well, he reports about the two cases of plague in Beijing that came from the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. “Diseases like these,” he wrote, “can be quickly absorbed from the direct reporting system.”

Well-known ailments such as polio and plague can easily be entered into an early warning system. But if the doctors are confounded by the virus, the system cannot easily work. Dr. Ai Fen, who forwarded some clinical records to her colleagues, said that the direct reporting system is very effective if the ailment is commonplace, such as hepatitis and tuberculosis. “But this time it was unknown,” she said. Dr. Zhang Wenhong of Shanghai said that the direct reporting system “is more powerful than those in most countries in the world for known pathogens [such as MERS, H1N1] or pathogens that do not spread quickly and have limited human transmission [such as H7N9].” If confronted with a new virus, the medical personnel and the direct reporting system are bewildered.

The most effective way to proceed when there is no clarity about the infection is to inform the disease control department in the hospital. This is exactly what Dr. Zhang Jixian did, and her superior, the head of the hospital, contacted the local CDC, who contacted China’s national CDC and the National Health Commission of China. Within five days of Dr. Zhang’s alarm, the WHO was informed about a mysterious virus in Wuhan.

Since January 21, the WHO has released a daily situation report. The first report highlights the events from December 31 to January 20. The first bullet point of that report says that on December 31, the WHO China Country Office was informed that there were “cases of pneumonia unknown etiology (unknown cause) detected in Wuhan City, Hubei Province of China.” The Chinese authorities isolated a new type of coronavirus on January 7, and then on January 12 they shared the genetic sequence of the novel coronavirus for use in developing diagnostic kits. Precise information about the virus’s form of transmission would not come until later.

The direct reporting system was updated on January 24, 2020, with the information about the novel coronavirus. It has now learned from experience.

Facts and Ideology

Florida Senator Marco Rubio accused the WHO of “servility to the Chinese Communist Party.” He wrote that the United States will open “investigations into the WHO’s unacceptably slow decision-making on whether to declare a global pandemic and into how China has compromised the integrity of the WHO.” U.S. funds for the WHO are in the balance. Characteristically, Rubio offered no facts.

Was the WHO slow in declaring a global pandemic? In 2009, the first known case of H1N1 was detected in California on April 15; the WHO declared a global pandemic on June 11, two months later. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, the first known cases were detected in January 2020; the WHO declared a global pandemic on March 11—one and a half months later. In the interim, the WHO sent in investigation teams to Wuhan (January 20-21) and to Beijing, Guangdong, Sichuan, and Wuhan (February 16-24); their investigation, before the declaration, was thorough. The timeframe for the WHO declaration is similar, even faster in 2020 than it was in 2009.

Whether it is the New York Times or Marco Rubio, there is an urgency to conclude that China’s government and Chinese society are to blame for the global pandemic, and that their failures not only compromised the WHO but caused the pandemic. Facts become irrelevant. What we have shown in this report is that there was neither willful suppression of the facts nor was there a fear from local officials to report to Beijing; nor indeed was the system broken. The coronavirus epidemic was mysterious and complex, and the Chinese doctors and authorities hastily learned what was going on and then made—based on the facts available—rational decisions.

Part 3: How China Broke the Chain of Infection

As information about coronavirus emerged, the Chinese government and Chinese society began to organize an immense campaign against its spread.

April 13, 2020

On March 31, 2020, a group of scientists from around the world—from Oxford University to Beijing Normal University—published an important paper in Science. This paper—“An Investigation of Transmission Control Measures During the First 50 Days of the COVID-19 Epidemic in China”—proposes that if the Chinese government had not initiated the lockdown of Wuhan and the national emergency response, then there would have been 744,000 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases outside Wuhan. “Control measures taken in China,” the authors argue, “potentially hold lesso[n]s for other countries around the world.”

In the World Health Organization’s February report after a visit to China, the team members wrote, “In the face of a previously unknown virus, China has rolled out perhaps the most ambitious, agile and aggressive disease containment effort in history.”

In this report, we detail the measures taken by the different levels of the Chinese government and by social organizations to stem the spread of the virus and the disease at a time when scientists had just begun to accumulate knowledge about them and when they worked in the absence of a vaccine and a specific drug treatment for COVID-19.

The Emergence of a Plan

In the early days of January 2020, the National Health Commission (NHC) and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began to establish protocols to deal with the diagnosis, treatment, and laboratory testing of what was then considered a “viral pneumonia of unknown cause.” A treatment manual was produced by the NHC and health departments in Hubei Province and sent to all medical institutions in Wuhan City on January 4; city-wide training was conducted that same day. By January 7, China CDC isolated the first novel coronavirus strain, and three days later, the Wuhan Institute of Virology (Chinese Academy of Sciences) and others developed testing kits.

By the second week of January, more was known about the nature of the virus, and so a plan began to take shape to contain it. On January 13, the NHC instructed Wuhan City authorities to begin temperature checks at ports and stations and to reduce public gathering. The next day, the NHC held a national teleconference that alerted all of China to the virulent novel coronavirus strain and to prepare for a public health emergency. On January 17, the NHC sent seven inspection teams to China’s provinces to train public health officials about the virus, and on January 19 the NHC distributed nucleic acid reagents for test kits to China’s many health departments. Zhong Nanshan—former president of the Chinese Medical Association—led a high-level team to Wuhan City to carry out inspections on January 18 and 19.

Over the next few days, the NHC began to understand how the virus was transmitted and how this transmission could be halted. Between January 15 and March 3, the NHC published seven editions of its guidelines. A look at them shows a precise development of its knowledge about the virus and its plans for mitigation; these included new methods for treatment, including the use of ribavirin and a combination of Chinese and allopathic medicine. The National Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine would eventually report that 90 percent of patients received a traditional medicine, which was found to be effective in 90 percent of them.

By January 22, it had become clear that transport in and out of Wuhan had to be restricted. That day, the State Council Information Office urged people not to go to Wuhan, and the next day the city was essentially shut down. The grim reality of the virus had by now become clear to everyone.

The Government Acts

On January 25, the Communist Party of China (CPC) formed a Central Committee Leading Group for COVID-19 Prevention and Control with two leaders—Li Keqiang and Wang Huning—in charge. China’s President Xi Jinping tasked the group to use the best scientific thinking as they formulated their policies to contain the virus, and to use every resource to put people’s health before economic considerations. By January 27, Vice Premier of the State Council Sun Chunlan led a Central Guiding Team to Wuhan City to shape the new aggressive response to virus control. Over time, the government and the Communist Party developed an agenda to tackle the virus, which can be summarized in four points:

1. To prevent the diffusion of the virus by maintaining not only a lockdown on the province, but by minimizing traffic within the province. This was complicated by the Chinese New Year break, which had already begun; families would visit one another and visit markets (this is the largest short-term human migration, when almost all of China’s 1.4 billion people gather in each other’s homes). All this had to be prevented. Local authorities had already begun to use the most advanced epidemiological thinking to track and study the source of the infections and trace the route of transmission. This was essential to shut down the spread of the virus.

2. To deploy resources for medical workers, including protective equipment for the workers, hospital beds for patients, and equipment as well as medicines to treat the patients. This included the building of temporary treatment centers—including later two full hospitals (Huoshenshan Hospital and Leishenshan Hospital). Increased screening required more test kits, which had to be developed and manufactured.

3. To ensure that during the lockdown of the province, food and fuel were made available to the residents.

4. To ensure the release of information to the public that is based on scientific fact and not rumor. To this end, the team investigated any and all irresponsible actions taken by the local authorities from the reports of the first cases to the end of January.

These four points defined the approach taken by the Chinese government and the local authorities through February and March. A joint prevention and control mechanism was established under the leadership of the NHC, with wide-ranging authority to coordinate the fight to break the chain of infection. Wuhan City and Hubei Province remained under virtual lockdown for 76 days until early April.

On February 23, President Xi Jinping spoke to 170,000 county and Communist Party cadres and military officials from every part of China; “this is a crisis and also a major test,” said Xi. All of China’s emphasis would be on fighting the epidemic and putting people first, and at the same time China would ensure that its long-term economic agenda would not be damaged.

Neighborhood Committees

A key—and underreported—part of the response to the virus was in the public action that defines Chinese society. In the 1950s, urban civil organizations—or juweihui—developed as way for residents in neighborhoods to organize their mutual safety and mutual aid. In Wuhan, as the lockdown developed, it was members of the neighborhood committees who went door-to-door to check temperatures, to deliver food (particularly to the elderly) and to deliver medical supplies. In other parts of China, the neighborhood committees set up temperature checkpoints at the entrance of the neighborhoods to monitor people who went in and out; this was basic public health in a decentralized fashion. As of March 9, 53 people working in these committees lost their lives, 49 of them were members of the Communist Party.

The Communist Party’s 90 million members and the 4.6 million grass-roots party organizations helped shape the public action across the country at the frontlines of China’s 650,000 urban and rural communities. Medical workers who were party members traveled to Wuhan to be part of the frontline medical response. Other party members worked in their neighborhood committees or developed new platforms to respond to the virus.

Decentralization defined the creative responses. In Tianxinqiao Village, Tiaoma Town, Yuhua District, Changsha, Hunan Province, Yang Zhiqiang—a village announcer—used the “loud voice” of 26 loudspeakers to urge villagers not to pay New Year visits to each other and not to eat dinner together. In Nanning, Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, the police used drones to play the sound of trumpets as a reminder not to violate the lockdown order.

In Chengdu, Sichuan Province, 440,000 citizens formed teams to do a range of public actions to stem the transmission of the virus: they publicized the health regulations, they checked temperatures, they delivered food and medicines, and they found ways to entertain the otherwise traumatized public. The Communist Party cadre led the way here, drawing together businesses, social groups, and volunteers into a local self-management structure. In Beijing, residents developed an app that sends registered users warnings about the virus and creates a database that can be used to help track the movement of the virus in the city.

Medical Intervention

Li Lanjuan was one of the early medical doctors to enter Wuhan; she recalled that when she got there, medical tests “were difficult to get” and the situation with supplies was “pretty bad.” Within a few days, she said, more than 40,000 medical workers arrived in the city, and patients with mild symptoms were treated in temporary treatment centers, while those who had been seriously impacted were taken to the hospitals. Protective equipment, tests, ventilators, and other supplies rushed in. “The mortality rate was greatly reduced,” said Dr. Li Lanjuan. “In just two months, the epidemic situation in Wuhan was basically under control.”

From across China came 1,800 epidemiological teams—with five people in each team—to do surveys of the population. Wang Bo, a leader of one of the teams from Jilin Province, said that his team conducted “demanding and dangerous” door-to-door epidemiological surveys. Yao Laishun, a member of one of the Jilin teams, said that within weeks their team had carried out epidemiological surveys of 374 people and traced and monitored 1,383 close contacts; this was essential work in locating who was infected and treated as well as who needed to be isolated if they had not yet presented symptoms or if they tested negative. Up to February 9, the health authorities inspected 4.2 million households (10.59 million people) in Wuhan; that means that they inspected 99 percent of the population, a gargantuan exercise.

The speed of the production of medical equipment, particularly protective equipment for the medical workers, was breathtaking. On January 28, China made fewer than 10,000 sets of personal protective equipment (PPE) a day, and by February 24, its production capacity exceeded 200,000 per day. On February 1, the government produced 773,000 test kits a day; by February 25, it was producing 1.7 million kits per day; by March 31, 4.26 million test kits were produced per day. Direction from the authorities moved industrial plants to churn out protective gear, ambulances, ventilators, electrocardiograph monitors, respiratory humidification therapy machines, blood gas analyzers, air disinfectant machines, and hemodialysis machines. The government focused attention on making sure that there was no shortage of any medical equipment.

Chen Wei, one of China’s leading virologists who had worked on the 2003 SARS epidemic and had gone to Sierra Leone in 2015 to develop the world’s first Ebola vaccine, rushed to Wuhan with her team. They set up a portable testing laboratory by January 30; by March 16, her team produced the first novel coronavirus vaccine that went into clinical trials, with Chen being one of the first to be vaccinated as part of the trial.


To shut down a province with 60 million inhabitants for more than two months and to substantially shut down a country of 1.4 billion inhabitants is not easy. The social and economic impact was always going to be very great. But, the Chinese government—in its early directives—said that the economic hit to the country was not going to define the response; the well-being of the people had to be dominant in the formulation of any policy.

On January 22, before the Leading Group was formed, the government issued a circular that said medical treatment for COVID-19 patients was guaranteed and it would be free of cost. A medical insurance reimbursement policy was then formulated, which said that expenses from medicines and medical services needed for treating the COVID-19 would be completely covered by the insurance fund; no patient would have to pay any money.

During the lockdown, the government created a mechanism to ensure the steady supply of food and fuel at normal prices. State-owned enterprises such as China Oil and Foodstuffs Corporation, China Grain Reserves Group, and China National Salt Industry Group increased their supply of rice, flour, oil, meat and salt. All-China Federation of Supply and Marketing Cooperatives helped enterprises to get direct connection with farmers’ cooperatives; other organizations like China Agriculture Industry Chamber of Commerce pledged to maintain supply and price stability. The Ministry of Public Security met on February 3 to crack down on price gouging and hoarding; up to April 8, the prosecutorial organizations in China investigated 3,158 cases of epidemic-related criminal offenses. The state offered financial support for small and medium-sized enterprises; in return, businesses revamped their practices to ensure a safe working environment (Guangzhou Lingnan Cable Company, for instance, staggered lunch breaks, tested the temperature of workers, disinfected the working area periodically, ensured that ventilators worked, and provided staff with protective equipment such as masks, goggles, hand lotion, and alcohol-based sanitizers).


A study in The Lancet by four epidemiologists from Hong Kong show that the lockdown of Wuhan in late January prevented the spread of infection outside Hubei Province; the major cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Wenzhou, they write, saw a collapse in numbers of infections within two weeks of the partial lockdown. However, the scholars write, as a consequence of the virulence of COVID-19 and the absence of herd immunity, the virus might have a second wave. This is something that worries the Chinese government, which continues to be vigilant about this novel coronavirus.

Nonetheless, the lights of celebration flashed across Wuhan as the lockdown was lifted. Medical personnel and volunteers breathed a sigh of relief. China had been able to use its considerable resources—its socialist culture and institutions—to swiftly break the chain.