Social Contagion: Coronavirus and Class War in China

Tuesday 31 March 2020

“Beneath [China’s] “four furnaces” [Chongqing, Nanjing, alternately Nanchang or Changsha, Wuhan] … lies a more fundamental furnace undergirding the industrial hubs of the world: the evolutionary pressure cooker of capitalist agriculture and urbanization. This provides the ideal medium through which ever-more-devastating plagues are born, transformed, induced to zoonotic leaps, and then aggressively vectored through the human population.”

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the London Marxism Reading Group is moving online until further notice. They will be hosting virtual reading groups through Jitsi Meet, an encrypted, open-source, easier-to-use Zoom alternative. Meeting details are listed below. Find out more and register here


What is COVID-19, and where does it come from? How can we understand super-plagues like COVID in relation to their historical, social, economic and political environments?

This week, we’re reading “Social Contagion: Microbiological Class War in China” by the Chinese communist theoretical collective Chuang. You can find it here:

In this piece, the authors articulate a reading of modern economic history, particularly in China, that emphasises the explosive relationship between resource extraction, population concentration, erosion of public health under contemporary capitalism, and the erasure of boundaries between the “human” and “natural” worlds. This relationship creates the context in which increasingly infectious, deadly diseases like Ebola, H1N1 flu, and COVID-19 emerge.

In this group video chat, we’ll discuss the implications of Chuang’s analysis on questions such as how to structure public health infrastructure, how racist caricatures of “primitive” food habits provide cover for the plague-generating practices of monopoly capitalist agribusiness, and how massive state responses to pandemics like COVID-19 may prefigure the strengths and weaknesses of their responses to the coming mass political mobilisations of the people.

Find out more about Chuang at:

On the day and time of the event (March 31st, 6:30 PM GMT), join the meeting at:

To join by phone instead, dial: +1.512.402.2718„3463885891#

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See meeting dial-in numbers: