COVID-19 Crisis in the Mekong Region

Cambodia, Laos, Social Justice, Vietnam | 15.02.2021

COVID-19 Crisis in the Mekong Region

This paper provides an introduction to the initial impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on some of the most vulnerable populations across the Mekong region.

Part one highlights uneven fortunes of different social class fractions, from low paid workers in export-oriented industries to those participating in informal economies, immigrant workers and displaced persons. These fortunes are contrasted with those of salaried workers, big firms, and investors in financial markets.

Part two situates the corona crisis and its impacts in the Mekong within broader global and regional trends related to expansion of capitalist social relations of production, capitalism’s internal and external dynamics, and inherent crisis tendencies. It connects these to processes of class formation generated through the ongoing capitalist transformation of the subregion, noting those most affected by the corona crisis are those societies have disempowered as social relations and state forms have been reorganised towards expanded production of commodities for export. It argues this has been an essentially extractive process whereby natural and social wealth has been commodified, expropriated, and exploited, in pursuit of monetary wealth mostly accumulated elsewhere. This process is inherently imperialist, as social relations in dominated countries across the region have been restructured to meet the needs of dominant countries and class fractions, leaving subaltern class fractions especially vulnerable to shocks and disruption.

Part three argues the corona crisis has once again exposed the limitations of capitalist social relations of production and presents an opportunity to renew struggles towards more rational and democratic forms of social organisation. To this end, it highlights diverse social groups across the subregion, from peasants and factory workers to progressive youth, resisting concentration of power and wealth and the demands they have made on their respective states. The paper concludes by arguing long-lasting change and genuine social transformation can only be achieved by struggles from below led by such diverse subaltern class fractions, aiming toward progressive transformation of diverse state forms so that we may rationally re-order our societies to better serve the interests of people and planet. This task is to be pursued through political education and movement building.

Corona Crisis in the Mekong: From Extractive Capitalism to a New Bloom

Publisher: Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung

Author: Charlie Thame and Jana Rue Chin Glutting

Date: February 2021

Pages: 55

Download: English version

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