War against the Coronavirus, war against capitalism’s brutal assault!
May Day 2020 is unique in the history of the world working class.
Humanity as a whole is confronted with an unprecedented catastrophe of immensely threatening proportions. The Coronavirus pandemic has, moreover, ignited the explosion of all the unresolved contradictions of the global capitalist crisis. In its essence, the pandemic has shown that capitalism has now proved to be incompatible with the most urgent needs of the life process, a historical obstacle that only the world socialist revolution can and should overcome.
Trillions of dollars of liquidity provided by central banks and governments to save the system are unable to stop the global economic disaster. Already before the pandemic, “unorthodox” monetary policies were exhausted as instruments to hold back the post-2008 global crisis. The source of the historic systemic problem is situated not in money relations but in the capitalist mode of production itself.
The pandemic did not simply accelerate the expected deepening of the Third Great Depression. A qualitative leap has taken place. Capitalist production all over the world is freezing in a protracted economic winter. With the lockdown, economic activities stop one after another and global supply chains are disrupted.
The head of the IMF itself has admitted that a global recession is already behind, not in front of us: worse, “the world economy is in standstill”! The tempo of unemployment growth is accelerated 20 times in comparison with the period after the 2008 global financial meltdown. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) the Coronavirus crisis added 36 million new jobless.
The epicentres are now in America and Europe. Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley expect US GDP to fall by 30 per cent in the second quarter of this year. US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has warned that the unemployment rate could skyrocket above 20 per cent, twice the peak during the post-2008 global crisis, or even to 30 per cent. In one week in mid-March. 3.1 million of new unemployed were added in the US, the following week 3.3 million and at the end of the first week of April this went up to 6.6 million.
In Europe, all countries are hit by the pandemic: Italy and Spain are in shambles. In Spain in two weeks 1 million more jobless were added to the army of the unemployed. In France 4.4 million workers have stopped working, receiving a subsidy temporarily from the state.
In Greece, a country already bankrupt and devastated during the last decade by the crisis, the workforce in those enterprises that remained still in function is fired en masse, receiving as a state subsidy only 800 euros for the next two months. According to the government’s plan companies in operation will be working alternately half a month with half of their miserable pay, under the unhealthiest conditions. The vast majority of workers was and is working for a few euros until now in precarious jobs in small and medium enterprises and now they are facing complete layoff. Tourism, the most important economic activity, is in ruins.
Undoubtedly in the most desperate position, together with the thousands who have lost hope to find a job or a shelter, are the tens of thousands of refugees from the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa imprisoned under the most horrendous conditions in the “hot spots’- concentration camps of this “front-line” country of “Fortress Europe”
In Turkey, a system that divides society calls the upper classes to stay at home while ruthlessly driving workers in the “essential” industries into the unsanitary conditions of crowded transportation and the conditions of the conveyor belt in factories where each worker constantly handles products that a multitude of hands have touched! In mid-April, the government declared a midnight curfew only two hours before midnight, which caused scenes of stampede of families trying to buy bread for the next 48 hours, destroying whatever positive effect weeks-long “social distancing” might have achieved. Ineptitude competes with utter neglect of the health of the labouring population. All the while an economic crisis is deepening with the government using all means to bail out sinking companies.
And the catastrophe is only in its initial stages. From these epicentres in Europe and America the pandemic is expanding to the periphery of the capitalist world mired in poverty. Almost half the world’s population lacks the necessary running water to wash their hands with and squat in single-room shacks and buildings huddled together in narrow lanes and alleys in slums, settings in which only a travesty of the isolation so persistently advocated can be provided for. The hospital system in those countries is miserable even in normal times, let alone under duress of a pandemic.
India, the land of mass scale rough sleeping and 1.3 billion people in lockdown is joining the fray now. Africa is only now being introduced to the virus. Signals of alert and figures of the first coronavirus cases jump from one African country to another. South Africa and Nigeria are already hit. Lagos, the capital of Nigeria, and the most populated city of the Continent, is in lockdown. But this is only the beginning.
Latin America is suffering. The pandemic has already caused ravage in Brazil, exacerbated by the stubborn denial of the fascistoid Bolsonaro regime, and it is now expanding to Argentina, Chile, Bolivia etc. But the poorer nations of Latin America are still in the waiting. The scene will be frightening if and when the virus gets a grip on countries like Haiti. The same goes for the poorer nations of Asia and the war ravaged countries from Afghanistan to Syria, from Yemen to Libya. Gaza, that territory where a death quarantine has long been applied by Zionist Israel, will surely be decimated by the pandemic.
Iran, where the virus has already taken a heavy toll, is suffering from the sanctions imposed by imperialism. Sanctions also hurt Venezuela and Cuba.
The refugees and migrants on the road and in concentration camps of all names, in Europe, at the US-Mexican border, in the Middle East, in Bangladesh or in Africa, have not shown in the grim statistics yet. Prisons, from the notorious systems of the United States and Brazil all the way to the overcrowded and dirty prison-houses of the poor countries, where hundreds of thousands of political prisoners not even sent to trial are languishing, have not yet become part of the outbreak. A catastrophe of unimaginable dimensions is descending on humanity.
Capitalist society, in countries rich and poor, has shed its cloak of civilisation, driving workers out of work or into workplaces that are fast becoming collective deathbeds, without any serious hygienic measures taken. Our societies now look almost the same as the Egypt of the Pharaohs, where masses of labourers worked to death at the building of the pyramids!
And at the same time, there lack masks, test kits, personal protective equipment, frontline gear for healthcare workers, respirators or ventilators, the many different types of medicine necessary to alleviate the pain and suffering of the diseased, plasma of antibodies. In all countries of Europe and North America, the rich countries that have now become the epicentre of the pandemic, healthcare workers and their organisations cry out against inadequate levels of medical equipment and protective gear as they catch the virus and more and more die on the “trenches” of the so-called “war against the invisible enemy, the Coronavirus”. More and more all governmental and health authorities are admitting clearly that in so many days or weeks there will be no more healthcare capacity left to look after the increasing number of sick people. Despite this unquestionable truth, factories go on to produce luxury cars and trendy clothes and cosmetics and everything else that society at large has no interest in at this moment, anything but the urgently needed equipment and garments for the “war against the virus”. This is capitalism in its naked anarchy of the market and its unquenchable thirst for profit!
The pandemic has exposed completely the bankruptcy of methods subordinating the health of the population to the profit system and to the "invisible hand" of the market. The crimes of capitalism come out all the more clearly when compared to those countries that went through genuine socialist revolutions in the past. The superiority of methods inherited from central planning were seen in countries that underwent in the past revolutionary social transformations such as China or Vietnam.
China was the first country that had to grapple with an epidemic of unprecedented dimensions for at least a century, so it did not have the advantage of learning from the experience of other countries, which the West did because of the Chinese experience. And yet, thanks to its public hospital system and its peculiar mode of socialised labour mobilisation, it succeeded in pretty much limiting the damage of the epidemic to a single state (Hubei) and a single city (Wuhan) and brought it under control single-handedly. It is the greatest irony to see that America, the most powerful country in the world, has now reached more than five times the number of infected patients in China and that at the same time it only has one fifth of the population of that same country!
Vietnam has almost been untouched by the virus, despite the first wave of the pandemic hitting east and southeast Asia. The two countries are now sending both doctors and medical materials to the rich countries of the West, overwhelmed as the latter are each by a national catastrophe they cannot master.
But the clearest example that starkly poses the contrast between societies in transition to socialism and capitalism as two diametrically opposite socio-economic organisations is Cuba. It is this country where the medical and health care systems are incomparably stronger than all capitalist countries relative to the respective levels of development and wealth. Cuba has presented to the entire world the counter-paradigm to Trump’s America or the EU of cannibalistic belt-tightening by generously sending doctors, medical materials and scientific know-how to dozens of countries. The way the Cuban state is monitoring the (limited) spread of the virus on the island itself, sending senior-year medical students door-to-door on a daily basis, establishing strict quarantine measures on neighbourhoods that have already been infected, and appointing specialised doctors to such neighbourhoods who come into personal contact with the local people, is also a clear example of a caring attitude, of professional competence and, most importantly, of humanity.
This shows once again that the working class needs to win the class war in order to save itself and the rest of society from the health calamity that is descending on us ferociously.
We call on all working class parties, trade unions, community organisations, anti-imperialist and progressive circles around the world, irrespective of our programmatic and strategic differences, to join hands in an effort to build a united front to fight the two wars against the pandemic and against the capitalist profit system and imperialism at once. Let us fight to radically restructure the product composition of the busy sectors of industry and transport in our countries so as to meet the needs of the fight against the Coronavirus, not only for the needs of our own country but also to cater to the needs of the poorer countries that are waiting their turn of the catastrophe! To that end, let us join all our forces in order to fight the ruthless assault of capital on the great majority of humanity!
Make May Day a red day of solidarity with the healthcare workers who are throwing their lives in the balance in order to save the lives of other human beings, without the due protection they deserve of the society they are serving! Let us organise, in synchronised manner, but each according to the fighting traditions of their own country, marches in the courtyards of our hospitals and workplaces, indoor meetings among workers, work stoppages, neighbourhood marches, online actions of all kinds, wearing red stripes and ribbons, carrying red carnations, singing “Bella ciao” or “Venceremos” or “We shall overcome” or any of our own traditional songs of revolt and surely the “Internationale”, showing our solidarity with healthcare personnel around the world as workers who are fighting the virus for the sake of us all and send a deafening cry to the bourgeoisie of our countries and their governments that we will not let our fellow workers die on the “trenches” for their profits!
Let us organise strikes in those enterprises and workplaces that callously disregard all hygienic measures necessary to protect their workers! Let us organise strikes to force textile and garments factories to produce masks and protective gear, automotive and other mechanical industry factories to produce ventilators (a demand for which General Electric workers walked off their job recently in the US), developers to build hospitals in place of luxury apartment buildings, transport companies to provide their idly lying fleets of buses and smaller vehicles in order to get workers in the essential sectors to work safely!
We propose the following demands as a beginning, but we are totally open to any new suggestions:
*No bailout for corporations and banks! Nationalise without compensation all entities in default of their debt under workers’ control and immediately redirect their resources to invest in industries that cater to the needs of the fight against the virus;
*Nationalise all corporations in industries that can produce medical equipment, all pharmaceutical companies, and all banks so that resources can be mobilised under state control for the fight against the pandemic;
* Nationalise all private hospitals and healthcare institutions in order to mobilise their entire capacity and their healthcare workers for the fight against the pandemic;
*Reduce armaments expenditures of the G-20 countries immediately by half so that resources can be freed for the fight against the virus;
*End all militarily and politically motivated sanctions, in particular on medications, medical equipment and foodstuffs;
*Expropriate all wealth in tax havens to use the resources internationally, with priority for the poor countries severely shaken by the pandemic;
*Health safety measures in all industries that are essential (factories, agriculture, transportation, shipping, retail etc.), including safe transportation to and from work, shorter shifts, four-day week, pay raises, additional personnel, less crowded work layout, protective gear, bearable hours, etc.;
*No layoffs, no short working hours with pay reduction, workers need their wages to live, let the capitalists pay the price;
*Not alms but a living unemployment pay for all workers;
*Cancel the foreign debt of poor countries, build an international fund for these countries to invest in healthcare, clean running water, adequate measures to fight against malnutrition;
*Remove all privileges of pharmaceutical companies to make production of generic drugs a right for the poor countries;
*Organise a Red May Day in solidarity for the frontline army against the virus, all healthcare workers around the world.
The International Socialist Center Christian Rakovsky
and its member organisations
DIP (Revolutionary Workers’ Party), Turkey
EEK (Workers’ Revolutionary Party), Greece
OKP (United Communist Party), Russian Federation
RPK (Russian Party of Communists), Russian Federation
Association “Soviet Union”
Həqiqət Sosialist Hərəkatı (Azerbaijan)
Renaissance Ouvrière Révolutionnaire (France)
16 April 2020