In recent weeks, the bankruptcy of global capitalism has been shown to millions of people as the system entered a deep crisis and its representatives did not take the necessary steps to stop the spread of COVID-19.
This was not an accident. As scientists and healthcare professionals screamed for the need for an urgent response, Trump and the American political system were slow to act out of a desire to defend Wall Street’s business and profits.
By Calvin Priest
As of April 1 more than 45,000 have died worldwide, with 912,000 confirmed cases of infection the horrible count continues to rise rapidly. Actually, this figure is just the tip of the iceberg. There is little doubt that many millions are infected worldwide. And while this has been concentrated in countries with developed economies, the largest number of people is likely to occur in less developed economies with weaker health infrastructures such as Latin America, Africa, parts of the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. In places where they have taken more proactive measures, such as South Korea’s massive testing program of 10,000 people a day or in Seattle, Washington, which saw the first recorded case of coronavirus in the United States and where social distancing and other measures were adopted before, the contagion curve has been somewhat flattened.
“In Seattle, these measures, albeit limited, were driven by pressure from social movements. Seattle City Socialist Councilwoman, Kshama Sawant called for immediate action at the start of the outbreak and organized workers to do a series of lawsuits to the political system, including free tests and treatment, guaranteed sick leave, ability to work from home, suspended rent and mortgage payments, while emphasizing the crucial need for mass testing – although the steps taken were a long way off if enough, they show that when we fight, we can win, even in pandemic conditions. “
United States, the new epicenter
At the same time, Trump has been the world’s child for his reckless approach to the crisis: absolutely criminal.
Trump’s initial response was to dismiss the virus threat (“This is a flu,” he said), and he spent a month to establish widespread testing for COVID-19 or other urgent measures. It then failed to take the necessary steps to increase the supply of protective equipment or testing for front-line workers, including nurses and doctors in hospitals increasingly affected by the crisis. A recent poll of American mayors showed just how steep the deficit is: 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million other personal protective equipment, 7.9 million test kits, and 139,000 fans.
The United States is the new global epicenter of the pandemic, and as of today, more than 205,000 infected, 4,516 dead, were confirmed, with projections of deaths of between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans. Currently New York State, and especially New York City, is the national epicenter but there will soon be other epicenters, probably including Louisiana, where the outbreak has developed rapidly. New York State has more than 83,000 confirmed cases, 40% of the national total and more than in the Hubei province of China, where the outbreak arose, and 1,941 deaths. Hospitals and morgues in parts of New York City are now completely collapsed.
Despite dire human costs, Trump and the US ruling class are eager to reopen the economy, in a bid to restore profits and financial stock prices.
Called to reopen the economy
On March 24, Trump promised to lift the coronavirus restrictions before Easter, saying: “Churches across our country will have to be crowded … I think it will be a beautiful time.” Under intense pressure to back off, he adjusted his message, calling instead for April 30 for a general return to work.
But Trump is far from alone in demands to return to business as usual at any cost to workers’ health and lives.
Long before Trump’s proclamation of Easter, the Wall Street Journal editorial board stated: “This will not be popular to read in some quarters, but federal and state officials must start tweaking their antivirus strategy now to avoid an economic downturn.” .
The most brutal have been right-wing experts like Glenn Beck, who have called for “economic patriotism,” particularly by older Americans, to immediately return to work and die as necessary, to get the economy back on track.
The difference between the “economic patriotism” of the right-wing experts and the broader elite is mainly due to the degree of openness, not intention.
The ruling class overview was bluntly summed up by former Wells Fargo CEO Dick Kovacevich, now a Cisco and Cargill executive: “Little by little we are going to bring those people back and see what happens. Some will get sick, some will even die, I don’t know … Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You have the opportunity to choose. “
Of course, it is absolutely true that an economic catastrophe is underway along with the pandemic. There are projections that 30% of American workers may be unemployed for the next month, rivaling the Great Depression. But while the Coronavirus has had a major impact, it was the tipping point for a deep-rooted global capitalist crisis that already had the potential to be more severe than the Great Recession of 2008–9 even before the pandemic.
“We must not conclude that putting working people’s lives second to the needs of capitalism is only a feature of the right or corporate interests. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio unbelievably raised the idea last week. of reopening the city’s schools by April 20, an idea that caused unanimous opposition and forced him to abandon it. Also for more than a week after the city closed, the construction of luxury apartments for the super wealthy continued. This only stopped because construction workers and their unions demanded an end to a situation where workers went up and down the elevators, twenty at the same time and were at serious risk of infection. “
New York Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo recently said on CNN: “We are talking about protecting lives. There also has to be a parallel pathway that talks about economic viability… You can’t stop the economy forever, so we have to start thinking about whether everyone is out of a job. ”
Of course, economic activity must reopen at some point, but under what conditions, in whose interests and how are these decisions made? Workers’ representatives in key sectors, from manufacturing to education, must have a direct voice and vote in this process. Reopening the economy is not just about “flattening the curve” of the virus. It must be linked to a clear strategy, prioritizing the life and health of workers, and with real resources to face new outbreaks that are inevitable.
“Left to their own devices, bosses and corporate politicians will move to reopen sectors of the economy without paying attention to the safety of workers. And if they ask us to risk our lives for their profits, we will have to organize ourselves in our unions and with our coworkers to fight. “
We should also be clear that the ruling class and Trump can seize the opportunity of the pandemic and move to restrict basic democratic rights that we must also resolutely oppose. This has already happened in country after country, from Chile to Hungary, as reported by the New York Times on March 31. They describe how the Trump Justice Department “asked Congress for radical new powers, including a plan to remove legal protections for asylum seekers and detain people indefinitely without trial.” While congressional leaders declined, this is a serious warning of what may come.
A bailout for billionaires
The priorities of the ruling class were clearly reflected in the stimulus package of March 27. The bill included the scandalous $ 425 billion in corporate bailouts that are being used to capitalize an incredible $ 4 trillion in loans for large companies compared to a much smaller amount for ordinary people. Even the annexation of limited measures for workers is not due to growth of consciousness, but to the recognition that without putting some money directly into people’s pockets, the economy could completely collapse.
“Bernie Sanders successfully defended a substantial expansion of unemployment insurance and other protections, while Ocasio-Cortez raised strong criticism of the bill. But we should be clear that it was a mistake for them to vote for the rescue package. the working class should not give the left a rotting political system in exchange for limited reforms. “
The root of the United States’ vulnerability to the coronavirus has been not only Trump’s impressive failure, but also the lack of a Medicare-for-All-style healthcare system. Both circumstances have acted against public health care: their determination to put profits before human lives did not begin with the current crisis. In reality, we have to go beyond Medicare for All, towards a socialized medical system in which hospitals, health care, and pharmaceutical industries are taken over by democratic public property and managed by workers based on human health and non profit.
In the past month, the Democratic leadership has done its best to carry out a coup d’etat on behalf of Joe Biden, who made it clear that he would veto Medicare for All, in order to block Bernie Sanders and his political revolution. However, Biden has been so inept at responding to the pandemic that there has even been speculation about an intervention in the Democratic Convention to replace him with a more capable representative of the ruling class like Andrew Cuomo. But while we fully understand the desire of many to get rid of Trump at all costs, the workers cannot support Biden or Cuomo. We need to fight against the entire corporate regime.
To win Medicare for All services, affordable housing, or other real gains in the context of the global collapse of capitalism, we need to organize.
“In the past few days and weeks, workers have waged heroic struggles against their bosses. From Instacart workers to sanitation workers in Pittsburgh to healthcare workers in New York City, a growing struggle is taking place. Meanwhile, corporations like Amazon are benefiting from the pandemic while providing little or no protection for their most exposed workers, along with a growing number of confirmed infections in Amazon warehouses. “
We need to link the struggles of the working class with broader demands. All workers have the right to a safe workplace, and no one should have to choose between income and health. Workers have the right to strike and refuse work, and we must organize against efforts to demand that we return to workplaces until safety policies are implemented. Bosses will continue to prioritize earnings, so we must fight to create elected worker committees to protect the needs of the workers themselves where they work. Workers and our unions must reject any suspension of collective bargaining or the right to form a union. We must fight all attacks on trade union rights! We must also demand “risk pay” from all essential workers, who must be paid at least “time and a half” during the pandemic. If companies that refuse to operate under these rules must be publicly owned with democratic control and management of workers.
Across the country, people are out of work and their income is about to expire. An organization called Rent Strike 2020 is working with Socialist Alternative and others to build rent strikes in the coming weeks with a demand to suspend all rentals and mortgage payments during the pandemic. If these demands are not met, we will call a massive rent strike on May 1. A successful rent strike on this scale will require a high degree of organization in buildings, neighborhoods, citywide and nationally. But there is an absolutely urgent need, as millions of working people could face eviction during the pandemic or go further into debt. The key to winning is that tenants are well organized with the support of the broader working class, including unions.
This pandemic has exposed just how rotten and brutal capitalism is. It does not have to be this way. We need to fight not only for emergency measures during the pandemic, but also for an alternative to this sick system: for a socialist world in which the resources of society and large corporations are democratically owned, managed and managed by a healthy and sustainable way, for our needs instead of your earnings.
Let’s show the billionaires that we won’t die on Wall Street!