This draft document is under consideration by the Revolutionary Socialist Network. We are publishing this to encourage discussion on the left and in the working class movement of what measures should be taken to address the Coronavirus crisis.
The COVID-19 crisis is just the latest disaster that can be laid at the feet of the capitalist system. The virus has its origins in factory farming that created a biological stew perfect for the formation of a deadly virus. The willful mismanagement by capitalist governments, whose sluggish reactions failed to slow the spread of the contagion, have enforced austerity programs for the past decades. This one-sided class war broke unions and undermined institutions of public health. This bipartisan assault on workers has coincided with attacks on the gains made by women, oppressed nationalities, and LGBTQI people.
Over the last period, through both economic recessions and upturns, the rich have amassed more wealth at the expense of the vast majority who struggle to make ends meet. When times get tough, the rich get bailed out because they are “too big to fail.” The rest of us are told to be satisfied with the crumbs that fall from the bosses’ table.
In recent years, beginning with Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter, popular consciousness has turned against the dominance of capital and its government. Certainly, in the semi-colonial countries, from the Arab Spring to Sudan, Chile, Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon more recently, popular upsurges have challenged long-standing regimes. The Yellow Vests and working class mobilizations in France have shaken the Macron government’s plan for more neoliberal reforms. In the last two years in the US, strike activity, including the Red State teachers, GM, Stop and Shop and other strikes have idled numbers of workers not seen for decades. Interest in socialist ideas had blossomed, though there is still confusion about what socialism means.
This New Crisis is Made Worse by Capitalism
When COVID-19 started to impact the US, after weeks of Trump calling it a hoax and downplaying the potential for a pandemic, the markets crashed threatening to send the US and world into a recession. To be clear, a recession was already on the horizon but the coronavirus sparked investor panic and accelerated and deepened the collapse. The losses in the stock market are the largest in decades and unemployment compensation applications, 10 million at this writing, are record shattering.
Trump, GOP politicians, and right wing pundits have openly stated that the sacrifice of a small section of the population is a lesser evil compared to interfering with capital accumulation. To be clear, the implications of this is that seniors, the disabled, the immuno-suppressed must be allowed to perish in order to keep capitalism alive.
The effects of this disease disproportionately impact poor people and, in particular, Black and Brown communities. The statistics from Chicago, Detroit, and New Orleans show death rates that are disproportionately high. In New Orleans, for example, the death rate for African Americans is 70% of a group that is 32% of the population. This reflects the persistence of institutionalized racism in the US and the long term legacy of cuts to social services and public health programs which disproportionately attacked oppressed nationalities.
Trump expressed his desire to reopen the economy by Easter (April 12), saying, “So, I think Easter Sunday, and you’ll have packed churches all over our country. I think it would be a beautiful time.” This contradicts the statements of the medical and public health experts on his team. Trump has since backed away from his intent to reopen the economy for Easter, but continues to send mixed messages on the seriousness of the crisis.
Meanwhile, the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow exponentially. When questioned during a news briefing about whether lifting restrictions is supported by the experts as scientifically sound, he lashed out at the mongers of “fake news” who want this crisis to continue in order to hurt his chances of reelection.
A letter published by the Council of Medical Specialty Societies, and signed by more than 800,000 doctors, urges Trump not to do away with physical distancing protocols prematurely, stating, “Significant COVID-19 transmission continues across the United States, and we need your leadership in supporting science-based recommendations on social distancing that can slow the virus.”
Healthcare, grocery, transit, and logistics workers are at the forefront of the crisis. Government inaction in terms of the distribution of PPE has placed these workers in an untenable situation. Performing what are considered “essential” services with gloves or masks, these working people are placed in greater danger of contracting COVID-19. In response, workers at hospitals, at Amazon hubs, and at Whole Foods and other retail stores have engaged in job actions, protests, and short wildcat strikes to demand better pay, paid time off, and better safety procedures and equipment. 10,000 construction carpenters in New England walked off the job on April 7th to demand that jobs be shut down.
In the US, the government response to the crisis has been to attack workers’ rights, gut environmental protections, attack trans rights, and sneak in anti-abortion measures. It’s clear that the ruling class will take advantage of any crisis situation to advance their position against the oppressed and exploited.
The legislation passed by the US Congress and signed by Trump does little to address the needs and concerns of the real victims of this crisis — the working class and oppressed. There are some crumbs for workers in the form of checks, but little to address the looming economic and catastrophe that will result from the recession. Working people need action to stop foreclosures and to freeze rents and utility payments.
This crisis is international. In Italy, Spain and France workers face the same dangers encountered by working people everywhere. This crisis has exposed the European Union’s ineffectiveness as member countries shut borders and resort to individual measures. The EU has effectively cut Italy and Spain off. At this writing, there are more than 1.3 million coronavirus cases worldwide and more than 77,000 deaths. The global nature of the crisis requires an international response — something that is impossible under the capitalist social order. A socialist world would, of course, organize an international response, producing and distributing supplies and medical personnel around the globe.
While we demand action from capitalist governments, we understand that such action is not forthcoming. It is the organized power of the working class demanding and taking action in our own name that will advance the struggles of capitalism’s victims. This means taking decisive strike action when necessary. The unions, the mass defensive organizations of the working class, must live up to their mission and organize both union and nonunion workers in defense of the rights and to demand relief. Resolving the crisis in a way that favors working people will also require a decisive break with the twin parties of Wall Street. Neither the Democrats or Republicans can be allies of the working class and its allies. Workers and oppressed people need a fighting, independent party of our own.
Socialist Program – Emergency Action Now
Demands to Face the Healthcare Crisis
- Centralized, international commissions of doctors and engineers to coordinate a global response to the pandemic!
- Free local, accessible screening and treatment for everyone who is symptomatic, basic emergency healthcare access to everyone and a plan for universal, comprehensive healthcare for all!
- Free housing, food, and medical care throughout the crisis! Free distribution of face masks, hand sanitizing, soap and isopropyl alcohol. Pay for it through the military budgets, with 100% tax on all income over $250,000!
- No bailouts for big business or the banks! Nationalize production, finance, and drug and pharmaceutical industries and place under democratic workers’ control!
- Retool all non-essential production to provide medical and safety equipment and begin a massive build-out of green infrastructure!
- Re-appropriate with no compensation all existing infrastructure (hotels, hospitals, convention centers etc.)
Demands to Face the Economic Crisis
- Universal paid sick leave for all non-essential workers until the end of the pandemic!
- Hazard pay of at least 200% for all workers and full implementation of workplace safety measures!
- All the necessities for those who are not working!
- Stop all foreclosures and utility shut-offs!
- Freeze all rents, student loans, credit card debt and mortgages!
- Stop all evictions for the duration of this crisis!
Demands to Face the Social Crisis
- Completely free child care now!
- Emergency public housing plan and shelters for all unhoused people with outreach workers and protocols around screening and response to illness.
- No bans, no walls, amnesty for all immigrants and refugees, with full citizenship rights now! Moratorium on immigration status checks and deportations.
- Evacuate the prisons! Free all non-violent, immuno-compromised, and elderly prisoners, and provide quality housing!
- Drastically increase funding for domestic violence resources and education! No one stuck in quarantine with an abuser!
- Abortion is an essential service! Free and safe access for all who need it!
Demands to Protect our Political Rights
- Democratic decision-making carried out through public discussion on all restrictions of movement!
- Protection and expansion of all democratic rights, including labor rights for collective action!
Demands of International Solidarity
- Aid, not sanctions! Reparations for colonized countries now!
- Cancel all foreign debts now!
- Removal of all imperialist troops from the neo-colonial world; re-assign them for immediate use in aid efforts!
- Make public, free and worldwide available all technological and scientific discoveries! No copyrights rights for corporations!