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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire UCL - Al #305 - Industry, Pharmaceutical industry: how we can socialize it (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Thu, 14 May 2020 10:01:03 +0300

It is an essential sector for producing, in large quantities, screening tests and a molecule which would give results against the virus. It is also used, outside the context of an epidemic, to produce vaccines and drugs against chronic diseases for example. Leaving it in the hands of private interests is going towards new disasters. ---- It is because the pharmaceutical industry is subject to the law of profit that its production has been outsourced, notably to China and India, in order to lower wages and the conditions of control over medicines [1]. ---- © François Terrier ---- India supplies 20% of world demand. However, the Indian State decided, after detecting six cases of coronavirus, to restrict the export of 26 drugs (antibiotics, paracetamol, an antiviral ...) to secure its supply [2]. Drug supply chains have thus been considerably complicated, the liberal doctrine of just-in-time inventory management helping nothing.

But this does not date from the pandemic. In a decade, drug stock-outs in France have increased by 12 [3]: anti-infectives, vaccines, treatments against epilepsy or Parkinson's, cancer, now fears the chronically ill whose associations have signed a forum with scientists and CGT and Solidaires officials [4]. The relocation of the production of drugs in France or in Europe is currently under debate. But as long as this production remains subject to the law of profit, it will not be enough.

French companies will seek to maximize their profits through other means than offshoring: by focusing on profitable drugs, by managing stocks on a just-in-time basis, by changing the formulas to file new patents [5], or by doing lobbying so that the most expensive treatments are reimbursed and therefore prescribed [6]. Sanofi is already taking advantage of the crisis by announcing the outsourcing of 6 of its 11 European sites (ie more than 1,000 employees in France and 3,000 in Europe), supposedly to better fight against shortages, in reality to get rid of the sites producing the least profitable drugs [7].

Thirsty for profit, the giant Sanofi is chaining restructuring plans, especially in research, where 2,500 jobs have been cut in ten years.
© Peter Sondermann
What popular control means
Getting this industry out of the market by socializing it is therefore a matter of public health. Socializing does not mean simply requisitioning it during the crisis: in fact, reorganizing a largely outsourced production is not going to happen overnight.

Socializing does not mean nationalizing, in the sense that the state would become majority or even sole shareholder, but where one would remain within the framework of capitalist competition, imagining that the state in control, "it will be less worse". We can see where the case of Air France can lead us, which the government plans to renationalise because the company is in difficulty ... by announcing that it will sell it once the crisis has passed - and probably after having injected a lot public money, which means socializing losses and privatizing profits !

Socializing, to start with, means expropriating the capitalists who own the companies in the sector. Without compensation it goes without saying. They have taken sufficient advantage of the arms and brains of their employees and lived on the back of Social Security. But socializing also doesn't mean competition between self-managed companies, which would certainly lead to similar abuses.

The organization of work would be the responsibility of the workers, but the finality of research and production would be under popular control, through democratic planning. The population, through its representatives (recallable and / or drawn by lot, representatives of patient associations) would decide, in consultation with the socialized sector, the priorities of research and production. An investment fund financed by social contributions, on the social security model, would free this sector from the law of profit [8]. The usefulness of each profession [9], of each site and of its possible ecological conversion could thus be questioned.

Despite the fact that Sanofi scuttles its research sector and made a net profit of 2.8 billion euros in 2019, the group benefits from 150 million Research tax credits per year.
© Randy Monceaux
Do not stick to this sector
But ultimately, this reasoning can be applied to all companies. Whether we like it or not, it is essential. The whole economy is intertwined: pharmaceuticals depend on the supply of raw materials [10], machinery, logistics, etc. However, the socialization of part of the economy would necessarily result in retaliatory measures on the part of the capitalists: penalties from the European Union or customs barriers, up to the example of a coup d'etat as in Chile in 1973. One could imagine the transport employers refusing to deliver socialized companies, or that of chemicals refusing to deliver consumables, on the pretext of the disorder caused by socialization.

But this overlap is also international. Certain drugs require collaboration between countries, especially when a small number of patients are concerned. It will therefore be necessary to push for socialization across borders, and break the common dependence on private interests.

Socializing only part of the economy is not sufficiently coherent. But in the context of a pandemic that has opened the eyes of many people, one can gain a majority of ideas on the need to socialize the health sector and the pharmaceutical industry. An intermediate objective before going towards the general socialization of the means of production.

Grégoire (UCL Orléans)


[1] A third of the medicines produced in India are non-compliant ( Le Monde , January 11, 2018).

[2] "Covid-19: India restricts the export of 26 drugs and APIs", Industriepharma.fr , March 3, 2020.

[3] "Coronavirus: the supply chain of medicines questioned", RFI , March 6, 2020.

[4] "Shortage of vital medicines, tests and equipment: the call of personalities !", To find on the Mediapart blog of Pauline Ondeix , April 7, 2020.

[5] As was done with Levothyrox in 2017, which led to a wave of unwanted side effects in patients.

[6] Simon Gouin, "Lobbying: how the pharmaceutical industry is storming the European institutions", Bastamag.net , May 24, 2019.

[7] "The great bluff of the Sanofi group", L'Humanité , April 16, 2020.

[8] On this point, and in this context - socialization of a particular industrial sector outside the global revolution of the economy and society advocated by the UCL - our ideas can join those of Bernard Friot, "La contribution, emancipation lever", Le Monde diplomatique , February 2012.

[9] We are thinking here of parasitic professions such as that of medical representative.

[10] It is for example the insufficient supply of reagents which today limits the production of screening tests. "Reagents at the heart of the lack of tests", Liberation , March 29, 2020.

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