Mexico: the working class and COVID-19. We are defending our lives and our rights

While the AMLO government has taken some preventative measures against the COVID-19 outbreak, Mexico’s response to the pandemic has been hampered by the corrupt capitalist system.

Read the original in Spanish

Coronavirus is running unstoppably throughout the world, becoming a pandemic and shaking the planet’s fragile economy, which is already on the brink of recession. The spread of the virus exposes the ineptitude of world governments, the greed of the capitalist class, and the result of decades of attacks on workers’ hardwon struggles, such as public health care systems plain to see.

The AMLO (Andrés Manuel López Obrador, of the National Regeneration Movement, elected in 2018) government has taken some preventive measures to contain the inevitable spread of the virus, drawing on limited economic resources and existing healthcare infrastructure. On one hand, we have an advantage, that thanks to our revolution in 1910, the country has a full social security system. On the other hand, in the last few decades that system has suffered attacks and conscious neglect on the part of the dominant class and its parties, and as a result is underfunded. The social security system, which was a fruit of the revolution and for many decades the leading system in Latin American, has been decimated.

The corrupt Mexican capitalist system, together with charro state-controlled trade unions, have affected the Mexican healthcare system. To this we must add that 65 percent of the economically active population have “informal” jobs, who do not have access to social security. In the best of cases, some of these informal jobs come with the so-called “Popular Insurance,” which covers health care for only a small number of ailments. The AMLO government has created a Health Institute for Wellbeing. However, it is currently disorganised and does not have the human or financial capital to handle the high demand of a pandemic. Healthcare workers, including medical students who work in hospitals, will shoulder the limitations of our healthcare system.

The media and bourgeois parties, like PAN, deceitfully look for any pretext to generate chaos and terror in the population, even though they are responsible for Mexico not being ready to face the oncoming health crisis. They were the principal promoters of healthcare privatisation as well as the disappearance of more than 3,000 state enterprises, which could have given paid work to millions of people who are now in the streets, selling whatever they can.

If preventive containment measures are not sufficient and the virus spreads massively, the country will not be at all prepared. We have neither sufficient medical personnel nor infrastructure. In rural areas, vulnerable people will be defenceless, and it is not at all certain that city hospitals have the capacity to handle cases that require major medical attention. As comrades, we must carry out individual sanitary measures, but we must also put the entire healthcare system into the service of society. To that end, big clinics and private hospitals, as well as the pharmaceutical industry, should be nationalised and put at the service of the most vulnerable.

The capitalist class, before the arrival of COVID-19, was already withholding its investments as a response to the AMLO government’s measures to combat corruption and tax evasion and to eliminate preferential treatment in the awarding of state contracts. Now, via Coparmex (the Mexican Employers’ Association), they are demanding tax breaks and an end to state supervision, while most of the working class is being forced to work during quarantine without any guarantees. Nor do we have any security about what will happen if we cannot go to work due to health measures. We believe that privatisation, miserable salaries, outsourcing, businesses’ failure to pay social security tax, has debilitated Mexico’s ability to respond to a crisis like the one we are facing. We do not see how, at this point, the government can continue to give them our money or exempt them from payments.

coronavirusThe Mexican capitalist class, before the arrival of COVID-19, was already withholding its investments, now in the middle of a pandemic, it is demanding tax breaks! / Image: fair use

Together with the (fully-salaried) working class, another fragile sector and one that may be the hardest hit is that of informal workers and small businesses. Here we should include the petty bourgeois as well as professions such as the arts, which cannot count on stable contracts or social security.

The AMLO government wants to contain the virus, but they know that its arrival and spread cannot be avoided. As we write these lines, we see that the virus has in fact arrived and we have had the first death. In the economic arena, the government has not sought to take massive contingency measures, such as the suspension of public events or classes, to contain the economic effects of the virus. In the same way it is clear that the pandemic will have economic consequences, which will become more obvious as the crisis of world capitalism develops.

For four decades, the capitalist class has squeezed and reduced the quality of life of the masses. With its rapacious programme, it destroyed a large part of the formal economy (that which sustained full time, permanent employment) and condemned millions of workers to underemployment. Its parasitism was rewarded with the fortunes of multimillionaires: Mexico is a country with millions of poor people and a tiny number of super-rich. Even so, the capitalist class demands concessions from the government while those affected will be the working class, the underemployed, and the petty bourgeoisie. Yes, measures must be taken, but on behalf of working people.

All workers (including “subcontractors”) must be guaranteed social security, economic concessions for working while at risk of the pandemic, and a full salary should they have to work from home or rest for health reasons. No worker in the sectors most vulnerable to the coronavirus must be required to work, and if they must work they must receive their full salary. The AMLO government must augment its policy of control, the recovery of resources wasted by corruption, and the fight against fiscal evasion. In addition, special taxes must be imposed on the capitalist class, because we could enter into a health and economic emergency and we must first look after the most poor and underprivileged. The assets of any capitalist who refuses these measures should be nationalised and their businesses put under the control of workers for the benefit of all society. Enough with the capitalists wanting to continue enriching themselves from the catastrophes and poverty of the working class.

The government must use all its available resources to look after its most impoverished people: peasants, the indigenous, single mothers, senior citizens, the working class, the underemployed, etc. This is a priority. The government must refuse to pay foreign debt, which in 2018 cost $13,486,000 USD in interest alone. We cannot permit our resources to be spent on debt payments while our people remain unprotected. What the government saves from not paying public debt it can use in a large-scale plan of investment to kickstart state industries, to create jobs that pay well, and to guarantee an efficient public healthcare system. While the crisis lasts, all rent payments by the working class should be cancelled, along with cancelling bills for electricity, gas, and mobile and landline phones.

Even during a health emergency, class struggle does not cease. Some people hoard and look for other individualist solutions in the face of what may happen. Others of us have to live day to day and cannot give ourselves this luxury. Collective, not individual, measures will enable us to come through this health and economic crisis. What is at stake is our lives, and we must defend them, putting all of society’s resources at the service of the working class and the most vulnerable groups in both the countryside and the cities. At work, if management puts us at risk, we must organise and respond as one, with methods like strikes, defending our rights and our lives. The only class capable of bringing society out of the current crisis (of which the effects of the coronavirus are only the beginning) is the working class. Going forward, we must get down to business to finish off the capitalist system, which does not protect us and is bringing society to ruin.