The world has been turned upside down. Millions of working people are now facing a risk to their health and livelihood because of the deadly COVID-19 epidemic and a collapse of the capitalist economy on a scale even bigger than the Great Recession of 2008-9.
The twofold crisis of the pandemic and economic collapse are presented as the result of an unpreventable “act of God.” But in fact epidemics have increased fourfold globally in the last fifty years due primarily to environmental destruction. This pandemic was entirely predictable and in fact was predicted by scientists. What was certainly not inevitable was the total lack of preparation.
What has really been exposed in the U.S. and in Europe is the devastating effect of cuts to public health care resources combined with privatization. Neoliberalism which massively increased social inequality is now set to take an even bigger toll.
And while coronavirus is the trigger for the economic crisis it is also exposing the enormous fragility of the world economy which was already teetering on the edge of a recession with none of the underlying problems that caused the 2008-9 crisis resolved. Now Trump and the capitalists are being forced to pump hundreds of billions into the economy including directly into the pockets of working people. This is not because of a sudden concern for our fate but to save their system from complete collapse. And their measures will only slow down the crisis not solve it.
This is a crisis created at all levels by the diseased system of capitalism where the needs of the vast majority are subordinated to the dictates of profit for billionaire hoarders.
China is now presented as the “model” for how to contain the virus, but the truth is that the brutal state capitalist regime covered up the virus in late December and early January while persecuting whistleblower health care workers thus losing the opportunity to contain the outbreak at the start.
Trump has matched the criminal behavior of the Chinese regime by denying that there was any threat for weeks on end and doing nothing to ramp up testing or prepare the health care resources necessary if this could not be immediately contained. He seeks to deflect by whipping up xenophobia, calling coronavirus the “China virus.” As a result of the criminal negligence of this delusional egomaniac, thousands and probably tens of thousands will needlessly die.
Trump is now considering “reopening the economy” and urging people back to work in April in order to prevent a deeper collapse on Wall Street. This is against the near unilateral advice of health experts. In response to this, as we went to press the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet went viral on Twitter as people expressed outrage at a system that would so blatantly put profits before people.
But it’s not just Trump. The Democrats in Congress, and at the state and local level, with honorable exceptions, have been complicit in maintaining what is dangerously close to a code of silence about the true scale of the impending crisis, while physicians and epidemiologists globally have gone hoarse ringing the alarm bells.
Even now, as we go to print, the U.S. has only tested 125 people per million, compared to 5,000 per million in South Korea which had the first outbreak after China and where it has been relatively contained at least for now.
Immediate Overhaul of Health Care!
Decades of capitalist policies, designed to maximize profit with no concern for consequences for society or workers, are responsible for the vulnerable state we are now in. Long supply-chains and cuts in public hospitals have left us totally unprepared to deal with this crisis.
We now face an immediate, severe shortage of safety equipment in hospitals, a woeful lack of testing equipment and a complete lack of any preparedness for this pandemic.
- We demand the government immediately direct national resources to produce medically necessary equipment, ensure fast testing of the whole population, and equip medical staff and the public with necessary safety equipment.
- Re-open closed hospitals, immediate construction of new hospitals to care for the coming influx of patients. For a massive accelerated hiring and training of medical staff. All with union rights and pay.
- Establish free medical clinics in all neighborhoods. Take over empty buildings when necessary.
- For a massive expenditure of public resources to be directed to develop a vaccine. Oppose Trump’s plan to privatize the vaccine. We need a public entity to ensure transparency and speedy production of a vaccine, free for all.
Establish Safe Working Conditions
Workers across the country have been pressured by their bosses to step up despite a complete lack of safety equipment. Front-line workers like nurses, supermarket cashiers, truckers, warehouse, and delivery workers should not have to compromise their health in order to help society and receive a paycheck. We need strong unions to fight for safety measures, rights on the job and increased pay for workers at risk.
- All workers have the right to a safe workplace. No-one should have to choose between income and safety.
- Workers have the right to strike and refuse work until safety policies are in place. We call for the creation of elected worker committees to protect the needs of workers on the job.
- Stop the attacks on union rights! No suspension of collective bargaining or the right to form a union.
- For “hazard pay” to all essential workers. All essential workers should be paid at least “time and a half” during the pandemic.
- Companies that refuse to operate under these rules should be taken into public ownership with democratic workers control and management of the economy.
Full Pay for the Unemployed
- All workers to be paid full wages if they lose their job due to the pandemic or the recession. This includes the millions of workers who are falsely labeled “independent contractors” or work in the gig economy.
- All workers without paid work should be eligible for monthly federal payments equivalent to a living wage of $15 an hour or $600 per week.
- For a freeze on all rent and mortgage payments. For an emergency plan to house the homeless.
Protect People, not Profits
Working people are not to blame for these twin crises. However, under the logic of capitalism, it is workers who will face the greatest hardships, while the super-rich CEOs and billionaires, whose policies provoked this crisis, are given trillions in government bailouts. And now it is being revealed that senators were dumping millions in stock when they got early warnings about the scale of the coming pandemic.
Neoliberal policies promoted by capitalist politicians have gutted public education and public services generally in past decades. As Bernie Sanders has pointed out, the lack of a Medicare for All system has left the public unprotected from this pandemic. Half of working-class families do not have the resources to deal with a $400 emergency. These capitalist politicians deserve nothing from us. We need to be prepared to take decisive measures against those who got us into this mess.
- Free health care for all. End private profit decision making in medicine. For public ownership of medical facilities, the pharmaceutical industry, and medical device companies.
- Rapidly re-tool industry to create more medical supplies, masks, hand sanitizer and other necessary items.
- Any corporations looking to exploit this crisis for profiteering should be brought into public ownership with democratic workers and community control.
- Confiscate the wealth of the billionaire hoarders with compensation to be given only on the basis of proven need. Use these resources to fund emergency medical supplies, food and necessary services for all working people.
- End mass incarceration and the inhumane detention of immigrants. Immediately release all non-violent offenders and those charged with minor crimes. Provide immediate safe public space to house the homeless where they can have access to free medical resources.
Capitalism has Failed – for a Socialist Society
The 2020 Wall Street crash and attacks on living standards and social programs for workers are a direct result of the logic of capitalism. We can’t expect the capitalist system to do anything other than maximize the wealth of the billionaires who hoard resources and aim to make money from our misery. This crisis has exposed who really keeps society running: nurses, warehouse workers, grocery store workers, delivery drivers. We demand that the resources of society be democratically planned by those of us that do all the work – the majority. This means challenging the rule of the billionaires and taking the levers of power from their hands.
This can only happen through public ownership of the wealth of the largest banks and corporations and for the economy to be democratically planned by elected representatives of the working class in the workplace and the community. The need for a socialist transformation of society has never been more urgent.
We Need a New Party to Address the Crisis
Working people can still take action to change things! Online petitions, strikes, workplace organizing and other efforts have drawn concessions from the Democrats and Republicans at the federal, state and local levels. The more we demand and fight for, the more they will be forced to concede. At the same time, both parties’ leaderships are bought and paid for by the billionaire class, and they will do what it takes to prop up the same billionaires who put us in unsafe workplaces, refuse to pay their taxes, and aim to profit from our death and suffering.
The Senate has passed a massive stimulus bill that includes $1,200 one-time payments to most adults and a significant extension of unemployment insurance. But it also includes a $500 billion bailout for corporate America. At the same time the Federal Reserve states it is prepared to pump literally $1 trillion a day into the financial markets if necessary.
The government has already given trillions to prop up Wall Street which gambles on our lives. This didn’t prevent economic collapse. The only reason they’re now giving workers some assistance is to try to prop up the capitalist economy. Trump is posing as a populist strongman, and we oppose any attempt to militarize society or whip up nationalist hate against people of color or immigrants. The enemies of working people are the billionaire hoarders and their representatives from both parties, not immigrants or workers from other countries. We can’t let the rich demonize the sick and vulnerable and let the billionaires who created this crisis off the hook.
We will need to depend on our own strength, commitment, and organization to get through this crisis. The Democratic Party blocked Bernie Sanders, the only candidate with a program and a movement that could seriously address the crises working people face. Their backing of Biden gives Trump an opening to pose again as the more anti-establishment candidate addressing this situation despite the fact that he suppressed testing for months and has overseen the capitalist recklessness that intensified this tragedy.
- Turn the Bernie Sanders campaign into a movement to address the pandemic with online, workplace and community organizing to win our socialist demands.
- Bernie should not put his efforts behind the racist, sexist, billionaire-backed Biden and instead launch a new party for working people.
- For immediate online conferences of Sanders supporters to organize together to address the crisis and lay the basis for a new party by, of and for working people with no donations from corporations or billionaires.
- For a Green New Deal that benefits working people. Take the fossil fuel companies into public ownership to immediately address climate change. Hire and train tens of millions of workers to help build a new democratically planned economy based on non-carbon energy. For people and the planet, not corporate profits!
Updated to reflect Senate stimulus deal 3/25/2020.