The world is suffering a calamity. The coronavirus pandemic is spreading out of control. There are hundreds of thousands infected and thousands of dead. What is happening in the world is unprecedented. Borders are being closed, millions of people and countries are being quarantined. The crisis of the health systems under capitalism is becoming clear. There are strong elements of chaos. Panic and uncertainty grow in millions of people not only because of the fear of contagion but also because there is a great distrust of those at the top, of capitalist governments and regimes. Trump and Bolsonaro, for example, continue to minimise the coronavirus.
The coronavirus can affect anyone. But those who suffer the most, and will suffer the consequences of the pandemic, are the workers, the popular sectors, the exploited and oppressed of the world. We are suffering from the loss of lives, but there are also social consequences on the people. World trade has been affected and there will be a further fall in production. Multinationals will want to make the working class and the people of the world pay for this. In the coronavirus midst crisis, the capitalists want to save their profits and wealth. They want to cut wages, layoff or suspend without pay. They don’t care about the health and safety of workers.
The capitalist-imperialist system does not guarantee an adequate response to this humanitarian crisis affecting millions. For the revolutionary socialists, the priority is to contain the spread of the coronavirus (Covid 19) and ensure the lives of millions. And for this, it is necessary to fight in the forced quarantines to impose emergency measures in defence of the working people and the popular sectors.
The global health crisis is the responsibility of capitalism
This calamity we are experiencing is the responsibility of the capitalist-imperialist system. Capitalism is an unjust, irrational system for the rich. The breeding ground for the growth of the disease is the increasing misery, overcrowding, environmental changes and health systems based on the profit of private capital.
The emergence of a new and serious disease like the coronavirus reveals the collapse of capitalism, as the persistence of epidemics of cholera, Ebola, tuberculosis, the epidemic resurgence of dengue fever and the reappearance of measles.
We must seek the causes in the conditions of misery experienced by billions. Over 1.3 billion people are in a situation of “multidimensional poverty”, they lack the fulfilment of needs such as health, education, drinking water, electricity, housing (data from the UN’s World Poverty Report 2019). 26 billionaires (among them Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, Amancio Ortega or Carlos Slim) possess the same amount of money as 3.8 billion of the poorest people on the planet. They ask insistently we wash our hands to avoid contagion, but 2,100 million people in the world lack access to safe drinking water.
Capitalist environmental destruction is also a factor in the spread of new infectious diseases. Even the UN itself, as an imperialist agency, has warned of this. The actions of the multinationals contribute to the poisoning of water by industrial waste and open-pit mega-mining. Jungles and forests are being transformed into deserts, and plant and animal species are being wiped out. This is the abyss to which capitalism leads us. Never like now is the historical dilemma of Socialism, or Barbarism ratified.
The coronavirus outbreak revealed the weakness of capitalist China. The dictatorship of the Communist Party of China (CCP) censored and repressed the doctor who issued the first alert at the end of December 2019. This delay of months facilitated the worsening of the epidemic in China and the world.
The health disaster in both the imperialist countries and the semi-colonial countries is coming to light. The data from Italy show the seriousness of the pandemic and that in 10 years the different capitalist governments have burst the public health system, draining 37 billion euros from the health budget. This is repeated all over the world. In all countries, the state public health system was collapsed before the pandemic began. The private health care business has been favoured. Today we see the consequences. The European press reports, for example, that a coronavirus test in the Spanish state, in private clinics, costs between 300 and 800 euros. In the United States, it was reported to be at $3,000 or $4,000 in a private service. A country that has almost no state public health. Obama installed a very precarious system that Trump questioned. In semi-colonial countries, this is aggravated.
Let the Capitalists pay for the coronavirus crisis
Given the severity of the pandemic, the capitalist governments do not guarantee an adequate response to stop it and save millions. The multinationals (Exxon Mobil, Facebook, Amazon, Wal Mart, Cargill, Bayer-Monsanto, Microsoft, Ford, Toyota, Nike, Alibaba or Johnson & Johnson) and the big business and financial groups (JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC or Goldman Sachs) want to save their profits over the health of the masses. And the capitalist governments endorse this logic of exploitation. This policy is best expressed by the head of imperialism, Donald Trump, who continues to downplay the pandemic and has declared that the economy comes before health. He calls for maintaining production and avoiding quarantines or measures to safeguard millions. The same thing is being done by ultra-reactionary governments like Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil. Boris Johnson, United Kingdom Prime Minister, who also denied the importance of the pandemic, has ended up with the virus.
Meanwhile, the United States and the European Union grant ultra-million-dollar state subsidies to save the banks, the multinationals and to avoid the collapse of the bourgeois states, instead of spending more extraordinary funds for health, extracted from the great fortunes of the world’s multi-millionaires.
With this same logic of putting capitalist interests before the life and security of the working class and popular sectors, factories and workplaces are kept open, and not only those that provide basic supplies. there are not compulsory safety measures for workers who have to be in essential jobs. It is this contempt for working life – shared by the Conte government in Italy, Sanchez-Iglesias in the Spanish State, and other governments – that has provoked a strong response in the form of strikes in northern Italy that finally forced a halt to non-essential production. With similar aims, other partial strikes and protests such as cacerolazos (banging of pots and pans), “balconazos” (massive clapping from balconies) are taking place in the Spanish State, France, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Argentina.
The outbreak of the coronavirus crisis, which has paralyzed economic activity, lights the fuse of the existing crisis of stagnation and retreat of the open capitalist economy in 2007. The coronavirus is not the cause of the capitalist economic crisis, but it contributes to deepening it. The IMF had already said that there was a global stagnation before this new crash of the stock markets and oil prices. Everything shows that there will be a before and after the coronavirus. When the coronavirus is over, there will be a very serious social crisis for the mass movement. The multinationals, imperialism, and their governments will attempt to compensate the crisis losses with new austerity plans, plunder, and exploitation of the masses. The ILO is already talking about the possibility of losing 25 million jobs. The capitalists, the superrich, not the peoples of the world should pay the crisis of the coronavirus and its consequences.
Already in the coronavirus’ midst tragedy, companies have fired workers or suspend them without pay or with reductions. From now on we must mobilise from below, to demand measures that will stop the pandemic and losing lives, such as measures in defence of the working class and the popular and poor sectors of the world.
The IWU-FI call to fight for global workers’ and people’s emergency plan:
We should turn urgent funds over to increase health budgets drastically, to deal with the health emergency. Funds for, among other measures, the expansion and improvement of health facilities, salary increases for all health professionals, new recruitment, free remedies for all, and health and cleaning supplies for all.
The funds for the health emergency should come out of high progressive taxes on business groups, financial capital, and non-payment of the external debts.
For a single, state-run national health system, with free consultations, treatment and medicines paid for by the state and administered by users, doctors, workers and professionals in the sector. For the nationalisation of private health care, of the laboratories of medical specialities. They must function under the control of workers and scientists of health and medicine.
Training in all workplaces of hygiene and health committees, with the power to implement the cessation of tasks in all non-essential activities or those lacking necessary safety measures. Price control of medicines and all essential products to avoid speculation.
A general reorganisation of production according to the needs of the health emergency under workers’ control.
No to the use of the coronavirus for militarisation measures or to restrict freedoms and the right to protest. Unrestricted defence of democratic freedom.
Prohibition of layoffs and suspensions. Distribution of working hours among all workers with the same pay. No to wage reductions. Implementation of insurance for the unemployed, self-employed and the millions who work without contracts and labour rights.
To face the coronavirus crisis and what will come after the pandemic, we call for the widest unity of action of the workers, popular, youth, women and environmental organisations, and the anti-capitalist and socialist left, to coordinate a movement of an international struggle for the workers and popular emergency plan in the way to the in-depth struggle to end this capitalist-imperialist system and impose governments of the working class and the people.
International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (IWU-FI)
28 March 2020
*»The environment and human health are closely linked; many of the new infectious diseases result from activities that affect biological diversity. Changes in the landscape (through the extraction and use of natural resources, for example) can facilitate the emergence of diseases in wild species, domestic animals, plants and people» (“Global Environment Outlook”, a report by 250 scientists commissioned by the UN and completed in early 2019).