By Teresa Sommers
Social-distancing has become commonplace across the US, with many stores shuttered completely and others closed for the duration of the outbreak. In some cases this is voluntary, while in others it is forced; the result is marginally postponing the spread of COVID-19.
Many have been convinced by the ruling class and its media to support such precautions out of fear of the virus spreading, however even organizations like the World Health Organization have admitted the limitations of this tactic. Such a shutdown would need to continue until the virus is completely eradicated. This means that people would have to be isolated for 12-18 months until a vaccine is produced, and even then, the vaccine would have to be effective in order to contain the virus. There is nothing supporting the idea that a vaccine would be effective when it is first produced.
Revisionists and opportunists are quick to insist that capitalism cannot manage such an outbreak, however it is not mainly an issue of inability but one of unwillingness. The ruling class is choosing not to because at the root, this is not principally a health crisis but an economic crisis. If social-isolation is unsustainable because no one can weather the 12 -18 month economic storm, there must be other reasons for it.
By shutting down various branches of industry, the ruling class secures massive unemployment, which results in unemployed workers competing for the remaining jobs, and driving down wages generally. When the restrictions on socializing and consuming are lifted, there will be another buying frenzy as people will need to acquire the commodities they could not during the health crisis. In this way, the ruling class hopes to hedge its bets, they hope that the people will be grateful for the scraps they are given and feel the need to accept lower wages and worse working conditions.
The isolation has the added and immediate effect of stopping any mass protests in response to the economic crisis; the ruling class hopes for ideal workers, those who do not rebel for their rights and those who will work hard for poor wages and be grateful to have a job at all. The working-class will see through this, and it is likely that rebellion will erupt regardless of the imperialist’s counter–revolutionary strategy. Reaction seeks to pacify the masses, and secure their support for profit recovery with deceptive maneuvers, but the masses know that it is right to rebel.
Overproduction has caused the rate of profit to fall, inter-imperialist contradictions have helped to exacerbate this inevitable crisis. The outbreak of COVID-19 gives the imperialists everything they need to shut down a rebellious mass response and to pass the weight of their new depression off onto the working-class. It is critical that the workers do protest and rebel, revolutionaries must fight for this, and must join in with the workers when they do pour out onto the streets with a vengeance.
In cases where social-distancing are absolutely necessary, the only way to make this approach sustainable would be to cover all lost wages for workers who are unable to work. The imperialist ruling class will not do this without a fight, which is why revolutionaries advance the slogan, “Give us work, or give us wages!” Coronavirus is real and the responses to it from the imperialist ruling class offer no solutions at all for the people, and are not even tenable as safety measures.