With this joint declaration, the Organization of Communist Alternative in Iraq and Union Pour le Communisme (in France) wish to affirm that:
- Capitalism is heavily responsible for exacerbating the population’s vulnerability to the coronavirus and the COVID-19 disease
- The pandemic jointly with the economic recession, exposes class antagonisms
- Working class organisations and struggles must adopt a revolutionary and international perspective.
The pandemic created a disruption in the economic system, proving the incapacity of the market to resolve the crisis. By continuing the production of non-essential products instead of protecting workers and/or orientating their activities to essential items, businesses have proven their harmfulness.
According to the World Food Program, 265 million of people could be affected by hunger in 2020, compared to 135 million in 2019, due to the disruption in the supply of necessary products for agriculture and the production of commodities. The usual methods put in place by capital at the end of the 20th century used for re-establishing the profit rates are showing their limits: the concentration of pharmaceutical factories in India or China, the insufficient stockings allied with the interruption of logistics created shortages in several countries. One blatant example is pharmaceutical drugs, such as paracetamol.
Apart from a few countries, most states and their governments have been unable to answer properly to the situation and decided to put as a priority capitalist interests instead of people’s lives. This has been done sometimes in absurd ways, such as in Brazil where the government has been openly fighting against any health measure. It has not been much better in France, where the government on the 29th of February suspended a discussion in the parliament about pandemic prevention to force through a regressive reform on workers’ rights to retirement. Under the pretexts of flexibility, adaptivity and innovation (or rather fear of a planned economy), the rejection of any forecasting or anticipatory measure in the interest of the wellbeing of people has been established as dogma. The absence of any international collaboration is notable: almost no international financial assistance between states, no sharing of information on the dangers of the pandemic, a complete inaction of supra-States institutions (such as the European Union), the suspension of the participation of the United States of America to the World Health Organization’s budget, etc. Not only that, states have aggravated the situation by fighting between themselves about the acquisition of masks, in destabilizing oil prices, in continuing trade wars, embargos or armed conflicts. In France under quarantine, the weapons’ industry has continued to work. In Iraq, on the other hand, apart from the continued the US-Iran fighting over Iraq, the government and its intelligent and militia forces persevered in their sustained oppression of the October Uprising (Al-Intifada).
The management of the pandemic crisis has been more, or less efficient depending on the countries, but it has almost always been oriented to the protection of the bourgeoisie’s interests and their governments and political regimes. The present economic system is synonymous with social inequalities, resources inequalities, and budget cuts in the health systems which have weakened the ability to protect the population’s lives. Putting into place social distancing and quarantine measures is almost impossible due to the material conditions dictated by capitalism. This is all the more visible in working-class neighborhoods where people have to live in overcrowded and unsanitary spaces, to use packed buses and subways and to go in supermarkets or factories in full activity. Police brutality will not change anything about that (18 people killed in Nigeria in March, several cases of police brutality and humiliation of those who defy the lockdown rules around the globe since the beginning of quarantine). It is the working class that is making a sacrifice: health and social care staff, cleaners, transport, postal and delivery workers, factory workers, women and uberized and essential services workers, all at the frontline against the pandemic. Poor people without a home, or in run down neighborhoods, the displaced, refugees, prisoners and those living in camps, those with disabilities, the people suffering from chronic conditions (diabetes, obesity affecting mostly the poorer), all are the first victims of COVID-19. They are the first victims of the social Darwinism expressed by the governments betting on “herd immunity” to fight the pandemic. Those are our rights that are under attack to increase the exploitation rate (wage cuts, labor laws regressive reforms, etc.). From the other side of the barricade, capitalists enjoy the financial support from the governments, no questions asked, with for example bailouts of financial stocks by the Federal Reserve in the USA or subsidies for the aviation industry in France.
In accelerating the chaos and contradictions of the capitalist system, the pandemic crisis produced an economic recession more severe than the 2008 crisis. This new recession had been for several years in the making. It is probably going to get even more serious; the bourgeoisie is going to make the workers’ pay for its own mistakes by increasing their exploitation. Is this bourgeoise counter-offensive going to vanquish the numerous social conflicts that have been active for months in the world (Chile, Bolivia, Algeria, Iraq, France, or Lebanon, among others)?
The end of the crisis is probably going to be characterized by an evolution in the geo-strategical balance between the world powers. For the bourgeois leaders, this period will certainly be perceived as an ideal opportunity for restructuring the capitalist system and finding new ways to make profits. Old recipes have been proposed to save capitalism. But their ingredients are old one or are already in the making: digital innovations made to amplify exploitation ( perfecting of artificial intelligence for labor management), growth and flexibility in working hours, minimum universal income in exchange for the disappearance of stable jobs, relocation of factories, development of “green capitalism” with the help of greenwashing, etc. No matter what the result is going to be, it is going to be hard to digest for the working class if it doesn’t find ways to fight it quickly.
The working class has been engaged in initiatives falling within the range of basic solidarity (distribution of food and commodities, etc.), of self-defense against the attacks of the capitalists (strikes, interruption of non-essential production, struggle against inflation, rent strikes, etc.), or starting revolutionary practices (workers’ control on production, requisitions, etc.).
If those answers to capitalists’ attacks are more or less strong depending on the location and the state of class antagonisms and class balance of power, a counter-offensive at the international level is necessary. The failure of international policy by states and supra-state institutions, the power of global businesses and more generally capitalist globalization, are justly identified as causes in the current crisis. Some of the working-class organizations, along with capitalist organizations, are putting forward protectionist measures as acceptable answers. In every case, the political translation of these measures is going to be dramatic for the working class, opening the door to nationalism. They could be wearing the mask of progressive policies in a social-democratic framework or, on the contrary, be the actions of nationalist and autocratic governments. But in practice, these measures are going to aggravate the competition between the specific working classes of each country and between states.
By abolishing borders, the future communist society will be based on cooperation and exchanges at the global level, but with the objective of fulfilling the needs of the whole of humanity and not those of a minority. In our involvement in class conflict, it is therefore essential to:
- At the local level, try to build a working-class organization with modesty but determination, to empower the workers to take control of and manage social production in a rational manner. Engage in the daily struggles of the workers for immediate demands and building a powerful workers mass political movement to overthrow capital and realise the socialist transformation of society.
- At the global level, work to create solidarity links and to unify the political efforts of the working class, with the aim of overthrowing capital.
23 May 2020
Link to the French version of this declaration