Leaders inflict polio

Updated: 21 May 2008, 23:01

Originally written: 01 February 2005

Some people wonder why socialists oppose leadership. An example from the recent news may help to clarify our reasons.

In 1988, when the World Health Organization (WHO) launched its anti-polio campaign, there were more than 350,000 known cases of polio in the world. The WHO reported on 12 January 2005, that the number of cases of polio, worldwide, jumped from 784 in 2003, to 1,185 in 2005. The increase by 401 cases is mostly a result of an increase by 408 cases in Nigeria. In 2003, Nigeria (one of six countries where polio is considered endemic) had 355 cases; in 2004, 763 cases. Why did the number of (mostly children) infected more than double?

The increase is attributed to people listening to their leaders. In this case the leaders were so-called “hardline Islamic” clerics. These leaders convinced their flocks to boycott the polio immunization. These vile creatures convinced their followers that the polio vaccine was part of a plot, led by the United States, to render Nigeria’s Muslims infertile or infect them with AIDS.

Such a plot is not beyond imagination. Capitalism has done worse. But it is extremely unlikely that there was any rational justification for the religious leaders to honestly believe that the polio vaccine was anything other than polio vaccine. Their reasons? Why bother to guess? That is not the issue.

Believing these leaders has resulted in hundreds of children newly infected by polio, not only in Nigeria, but neighbouring countries including Benin, Chad, and Cameroon. The results spread further, to Botswana, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia.

That is what leaders are good for: leading people into disaster.

Some might argue that the leaders at the United Nations (of which the WHO is an agency) are responsible for reducing the incidence of polio by 99.66 percent — testimony to the benefits of leadership. The ambassadors at the United Nations, and their countries’ leaders are not the people who pushed for the WHO anti-polio campaign, or its anti-TB campaign, or any others. It was working-level people in the WHO who pushed and pushed and pushed to get the money to do what needed to be done.

They recruited the leaders and did all the work. The leaders got their pictures in the papers, and on the television, and their names in the history books, only because they were pressured, by people who really cared, into saving people’s lives. The leaders deserve no credit at all.

Today’s leaders lead from the rear, away from the guns and poverty and disease and death. Following in front of the leaders, though, is the fault of the working class. It is a fault which can be corrected, but that does not seem high on most people’s priority lists. Instead, workers continue to follow their leaders into poverty, war, disease, hatred, and genocide, and then complain about the results.

Religious or secular, leaders are bad news.

Stop trusting leaders. You can almost, it sometimes seems, be guaranteed that if a leader points in some direction, you will be better off to go any other direction. A gopher with a ouija board is probably a better bet than a leader — unless of course you start trusting the gopher or the ouija board.

Everything man-made was designed and built by workers — and if you work for a living, you are one of those builders and designers. We workers are not as stupid as most workers seem to believe, except of course that most of us follow leaders.

When our class overcomes its inferiority complex, it will no longer accept and follow leaders. Our class will be immensely better off.

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