Trotskyist Fraction – Fourth International
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- Coronavirus and the Healthcare Crisis: Our Lives Are Worth More than Their Profits! (March 14, 2020), Left Voice.
- Revolutionary socialist organizations from the United States, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Chile, Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Peru, members and sympathizers of the Trotskyist Fraction for the Fourth International, are publishing the following statement at a time when the crisis of the Coronavirus pandemic is developing rapidly. The disastrous situation of healthcare systems in the great majority of countries is preventing adequate responses (such as massive testing), causing thousands of avoidable deaths, and providing confusing information about the reality of the pandemic in each country. The economic and financial effects of the crisis will likely be unloaded onto the shoulders of the workers and the poor, who in turn are the most vulnerable to the danger of infection. We propose urgent measures so that large companies pay the costs of this crisis. They are the ones who have always profited from the degradation of public health and precarious working conditions, the measures carried out by the governments, states, and parties in their service. These are banners of struggle for the organization of workers and youth. Great crises require great solutions.
- The governments that have been negligent from the beginning (the U.S., Iran, Italy, and so many others) are reacting with measures that are limited to banning flights and strengthening quarantines and isolation, without more profound responses that would reduce deaths as much as possible. They are afraid of demonstrating their ineptitude in the face of such a health crisis. At the last minute, Trump declared a “national emergency” and agreed with the Democrats in Congress on a special package for sick leave and rapid testing. If he appears incompetent in the face of a crisis and thousands of people die, he could lose the U.S. presidency, even to Biden. The same applies to any other government. In the meantime, measures of police control are imposed on the population. The Chinese government currently appears “successful” in its response, but in the first weeks that the new coronavirus appeared, the government offered the denialism typical of restorationist capitalist bureaucracy, ignoring the warnings that could have reduced the number of deaths (including that of Li Wenliang, a doctor who warned about the epidemic and was consequently accused by the authorities of “spreading rumors” before he died from COVID-19). China is the most extreme example of authoritarianism around the world, with its tight bureaucratic control that prevents vital news from leaving Wuhan and other affected areas.
- The crisis of public healthcare systems has long been a widespread demand in several countries, particularly in the U.S. Surveys showed that even before this crisis, healthcare was among the main concerns of the U.S. population because of the debt it generates for families and because 27.5 million people do not have any kind of coverage. Bernie Sanders has been attacked, not only by Trump but also by the Democrats and Biden, because he calls for Medicare for All. All healthcare systems are organized around the profits of big corporations. The decline in public healthcare is not just caused by right-wing forces, but also by forces claiming to be “progressive” or center-left, as can be seen in Latin America where “progressive” governments have failed to change the structure of “first-rate” and private healthcare for the rich while public healthcare for the poor is absolutely backward. State-sponsored scientific research is significantly degraded. Since the elderly suffer the most from the lack of medical and health care, the attacks on pensions that are sweeping across all continents and governments are especially outrageous. They transform the increase in people’s life expectancy into a “problem” for the budgets of capitalist states. These states make jobs more precarious while reducing taxes for the rich.
- In different countries, especially where there is more class struggle, governments will seek to make political use of the COVID-19 health crisis, with the aim of restricting democratic freedoms and preventing demonstrations of discontent and struggle. The case of Chile is illustrative: the government of Sebastián Piñera went from complete idleness to a discourse about the enormous consequences of the virus, demanding measures like the cancellation of massive events while refusing to discuss the fact that working people still will not have access to free testing and the Chilean public health system remains enormously unfunded and in crisis. Thus, the government is creating a climate that discourages the mobilizations that take place every week in the country’s main cities. Piñera will attempt to use the health argument to pass repressive laws such as one that would authorize the president to decree the militarization of “critical infrastructure” (hospitals, ports, etc.). We reject any repressive measure that is disguised as health policy and is directed against the masses and their mobilizations (whether organized or spontaneous). It should not be the government that decides whether or not to hold a demonstration, but the organizations in struggle with the advice of healthcare professionals and researchers.
- The dynamics of the economic and financial crisis will strengthen the tendencies toward recession, aggravating the effects of the health crisis. This relationship means that the duration and depth will be dependent on the combination of both crises. The drops in the stock market are bursting a bubble that helped maintain weak economic growth (particularly in the U.S.), without having resolved any of the structural problems that burst forth with the 2008 crisis (low productivity, low investment). Companies today are more indebted than in 2008, so a series of bankruptcies (in airlines, shale oil companies in the U.S., tourism, etc.) could hit the banks. Unlike 2008, the banks appear to be in a better position, but this all depends on the depth of the recession. There are other significant differences compared to the last recession: instead of coordination between the governments of the main powers that was seen in 2009 (when they were obviously terrified by the depth of the crisis), today confrontations are prevailing due to geopolitical tensions and ruthless competition not only between the United States and China, but also between the U.S. and Germany (with strong economic ties to China), and even between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
- For all these reasons, we call on working people and youth to take the struggle for measures against the crisis into our own hands. In Italy we have already seen workers rebelling against the lack of protection measures and for paid leave in factories and companies.
- We encourage the organizations of the working class to intervene in the crisis with a program independent of the different capitalist factions, and at the same time we point out the need to confront the power of the capitalists and put an end to their exploitation of the workers of the whole world and of the planet itself. We are fighting for workers’ governments and socialist revolution to transform society root and branch, because capitalist society protects profits, not the lives of the working classes.