Coronavirus

covid 19 map Image PixabayThe COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has plunged the capitalist system into a deep crisis. The stock markets are plummeting, a recession seems inevitable, and the ineptitude of the ruling class’ political leaders is being ruthlessly exposed everywhere.

Rather than a concerted, global response to the outbreak, protectionist tendencies in the world market have been accelerated, as governments rush to throw up borders to horde medical supplies and scramble for exclusive rights to vaccines.

The bosses and bourgeois governments have attempted to force the working class to shoulder the burden of this emergency, banning mass gatherings at the same time as sending people to work without adequate safety measures. This has been met with a backlash, with a wave of strikes in badly affected countries like Italy forcing the bosses to backtrack. This is despite the woeful response of the leaders of the workers’ mass organisations, who have mostly fallen in line with their governments rather than fight back.

While this pandemic was the catalyst, it was not the cause of the current social, political and economic crisis. This was already prepared in the last period of capitalist crisis and austerity, which savagely cut health services, brought increasingly degenerate leadership to the fore, and caused huge resentment to accumulate in the fabric of society. COVID-19 was accidental, but the calamity it has provoked was inevitable.

This virus marks the beginning of a new, tumultuous period in world history, one in which the consciousness of the masses will rapidly advance as the totally rotten state of the capitalist system and its leaders are laid bare.

 

The Chancellor’s recent pledge for the state to cover workers’ wages shows the desperate situation facing the ruling class. The labour movement leaders must go further and demand nationalisation and democratic economic control.

The coronavirus crisis in Italy has brought out the real nature of the capitalist system that is now evident to millions of working people. Profit is being placed before lives, but the working class is reacting with militant strike action. What lessons can be drawn from this experience for the workers of other countries? Fred Weston explains.

The Spanish government has proven itself powerless to deal with the spread of the coronavirus. It urges the population to “prepare for hard times”, a forecast which data from the Ministry of Health confirms. On the other hand, the right wing lacks alternatives and simply engages in demagoguery. In fact, their austerity and privatising policies under Rajoy have, for decades, largely been responsible for the pitiful state of public health in the Community of Madrid, as well as in other regions.

Filling the vacuum created by the Tory government’s ineptitude, local community groups have sprung into life across Britain, providing essential support to the most vulnerable. These could become a powerful tool in the fight against austerity.

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio’s treatment of the NYC Public Schools is an indictment of capitalism’s prioritization of profits over the wellbeing and safety of its youth and workers.

In order to understand what is to come it is necessary to understand what came before. In January and February 2020 the Fightback editorial board drafted the following perspectives document. This piece outlined the general processes in Canadian politics and economy in order to orient the activity of revolutionaries. Most notably it detailed the coming economic crash that would impact Canada especially hard. We said that all this crash needed was a spark to set it off, but we didn’t know what that spark would be or exactly when it would strike. Now we know that the spark was the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of 2019, the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) announced a drop in unemployment from 12.3 percent in 2018 to 11.9 percent in 2019, that is, a 0.4 percent reduction. This change is not only insignificant, it’s also distorted: over the same period the number of discouraged workers, who gave up looking for work, increased by 1.4 percent. Informal workers – those without any kind of contract or self-employed – increased significantly, reaching a record number of 41 percent of workers who have some occupation. In practice, this means that unemployment has not decreased. On the contrary, it has led to discouragement or dragged workers into a precarious work

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Watch our second livestream with Claudio Bellotti, editor of the Italian Marxist newspaper Rivoluzione, right here on marxist.com! We will discuss the ongoing political crisis and strike wave in Italy, where the working-class are showing the world how to fight the bosses’ attempts to make them shoulder the burden of the coronavirus pandemic.

With the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic shifting to Europe, the region now faces its most serious crisis since the Second World War. All of the pillars of so-called European integration are buckling under the pressure.

As of midnight 23 March, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has declared a UK-wide lockdown. All non-essential businesses are being closed to contain the coronavirus outbreak. It is clear that this is too little too late from a big business government that places profits ahead of human lives.

Workers from the Alimentos Salva Foods Company – located in the port of La Guaira – which packages food products coming from abroad that are later distributed by the Local Committees of Supply and Production (CLAP), have sent an denunciation to the editorial board of Lucha de Clases about the unsafe and unhealthy conditions in which they have been forced to work.

While the Italian government has closed non-essential factories, production continues unabated in Germany, irrespective of the dangers to workers’ health.

A perfect storm of private sector profiteering, reckless production practices, environmental destruction and underinvestment in medical research has made global pandemics more common, and undermined our capacity to deal with them. Capitalism not only gave rise to this invisible and deadly enemy – it is the biggest obstacle in our fight against it.

Back in 2007, the activist author Naomi Klein wrote a book called The Shock Doctrine. In it, she described ‘disaster capitalism’: a political approach to natural and man-made disasters that seeks to maximise private profit in their aftermath. As the scale of the COVID-19 crisis becomes clear, Klein and others are sounding the alarm that the shock doctrine is about to strike again.

Faced with strike action by the working class and pressure from the bosses, the Italian government has flip-flopped on shutting down non-essential production to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Now the workers in Lombardy are preparing a general strike, with other parts of the country set to follow. A stormy new period is being prepared.

The global coronavirus epidemic and the declaration of the state of emergency have caused the most drastic change in the life of the Spanish population since the first days and weeks of the 2008-2009 crisis. Millions of people remain secluded in their homes and it was announced that more than a million will, temporarily or permanently, lose their job. We agree with the need to take bold and vigorous measures against this. But is the plan approved by the government the most effective way to fight the epidemic and ensure the employment and living conditions of working families, or is it just "bread for today"?