This Is Barbarism
Over 100 years ago, in the midst of the death and destruction of the First World War, German socialist leader Rosa Luxemburg wrote that capitalist society was at a crossroads and would either “transition to socialism or regress into barbarism.” In the 1930s, fascist parties took over Germany and other countries, and they indeed descended into genocidal barbarism.
Today, in the center of western capitalism, the United States, the president, Republican senators, and major financial leaders are calling for an imminent return to business as usual that could kill millions — but at least temporarily save corporate profits.
This is barbarism.
The Evolving Crisis
There are now nearly half a million confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide, with more than 40,000 confirmed cases in the United States quickly spreading in the South. Our caseload trajectory is rising faster than anywhere else in the world and could soon make the U.S. the center of the global pandemic.
The virus is ravaging New York’s healthcare system, and in Washington nurses describe their work as analogous to war: “You’re in a battlefield where supplies are limited. The help’s slow to get to you and there’s lots of casualties and … you can’t see the enemy.” Decades of neoliberal austerity have left most local governments and public health systems totally ill-equipped to handle the crisis.
50% of those who die from Covid-19 have dying from secondary bacteria infections, something Mike Davis warnedabout in his critique of big pharma’s drive for profits.
The FDA granted the pharmaceutical giant Gilead seven years of monopoly on its drug, remdesivir, a possible treatment for coronavirus. Gilead is already known for price-gouging life-saving HIV drugs.
Activists with Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) are sounding the alarm about an uptick in violent attacksagainst hundreds of Asian Americans, fueled by Trump’s racist rhetoric.
Stock markets are rallying as investors welcome the latest bailout package. But Fed officials predict unemployment figures as high as 30 percent, which will snowball the economic havoc that’s in store.
Across the country, we’re seeing murderous levels of neglect and inaction. With Trump pushing for a return to work by Easter, the new strategy is to starve workers to protect the profits of a few, risking the lives of millions in the process. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced plans to force workers back to work in the epicenter of the US outbreak while he recommended $400M in cuts to Medicaid.
The passing of the buck to state and local governments has resulted in wildly uneven responses across the country. This will only prolong the pandemic.
Democrats have reached a deal with the Trump White House on the largest stimulus package in history — $2 trillion, including $500 billion in corporate aid. Early reports indicate that Bernie succeeded in his fight to add improved unemployment support for workers. Bailouts may be in order, but they must be equitable and put people over profit.We must reject a repeat of the post-2008 corporate giveaway that lined capitalists’ pockets at the expense of workers!
Some local governments have pursued steps guaranteeing rent grace periods, eviction moratoriums, and other relief measures aimed at cushioning the blow for workers.
Joe Biden broke his week-long silence on Monday with bizarre and jumbled videos and interviews, displaying a lack of basic leadership capacity. Meanwhile, Donald Trump has seen his highest approval ratings as President, with a majority of Americans approving of his handling of the crisis. The leadership vacuum from anyone left of Trump shows why it’s more important than ever for Bernie Sanders to remain on the national stage. Bernie can retool his campaign to lead the charge against coronavirus and disaster capitalism as a surrogate for an absent workers’ party.
Workers Strike Back
The diverse working class is organizing like we’ve never seen — fighting to shutter nonessential businesses to stop the spread of COVID-19 while winning paid time off for workers. Essential workers in healthcare, logistics, transportation, and grocery are fighting to protect themselves and our whole society.
Healthcare: People are stepping up to donate medical supplies to hospitals. It may not be fully sufficient, but this mutual aid is an important and much-needed act of solidarity! East Bay DSA is hosting a digital townhall to hear from frontline healthcare workers in Oakland. Don’t miss it.
Transit: Following Detroit’s example, organized transit workers in Toronto and Alabama won rear boarding and free fares for riders to protect the public and the workers. Union taxi workers in Los Angeles have issued demandsranging from social distancing protocols to the expansion of SNAP for all essential workers.
Logistics: The presidents of two of the largest unions at Bath Iron Works on Tuesday called on the company to close and give employees paid leave for two weeks to protect the company’s 8,000 workers.
Grocery: Grocery workers in Berkeley won a $2/hour raise as hazard pay during the pandemic after gathering over a thousand signatures in their petition. H-E-B workers also won a temporary $2/hour hazard pay raise. Bosses at Kroger are so scared of workers organizing that they banned the website Labor Notes on their wifi. Check out the article that shook them up. Instacart is hiring hundreds of thousands of new workers to handle new demand for delivered groceries. We must support these workers in getting protection, support, and hazard compensation for this frontline work.
Agriculture: In Georgia, Perdue plant workers walked out in protest of their unsafe working conditions and lack of hazard pay.
Coffee Shops: After gathering over 24,000 signatures on a petition demanding the company close stores, Starbucks workers won.
We’re Fighting For the World
Like Rosa Luxemburg a century ago, democratic socialists are fighting for a just, equal, healthy, and environmentally sustainable world.
Under capitalism, private profit for billionaires drives our economy, our energy system, our government, and more. This profit is in effect stolen from the labor of millions of exploited, oppressed, overworked, and underpaid workers and from our environment. The pursuit of profit drives the privatization of energy, water, schools, transportation, and healthcare — driving the coronavirus pandemic to cause far more human suffering than it would otherwise. Profit drives the military and prison industrial complexes, the division of workers along the lines of race and nationality, and the devastation of our planet. Capitalism as a social system only benefits the already rich at the expense of everyone else.
Democratic socialism is the only cure to the disease that is capitalism. Workers—united across geography, ethnicity, gender, and age—are the ones who will win it.
The opinions expressed here are those of members and allies of DSA North Star Caucus meant to educate, inspire discussion and encourage comradely debate.