The current crisis is first and foremost an economic crisis. It is a cyclic crisis caused by overproduction, a fall in the rate of profit, and a corresponding lowering of wages. It is worsened by the ongoing health crisis, which is itself due to capitalism and imperialism’s mismanagement, a crumbling, incapable, and impotent healthcare system, and the anarchy of production that leaves the health of the people to chaos. All of these issues could be resolved with a planned economy where production is in the hands of the workers themselves, in short, socialism.
The overall crisis has caused many mistaken views. The imperialists seek to shift all the blame onto COVID-19 and at the same time use their mishandling of the pandemic as a justification for increasing the state’s control over society. It is not the fault of workers that capitalist healthcare systems are ill-equipped to deal with the health aspect of the economic crisis, yet they are the ones who will suffer unemployment from nonessential industry and heightened risk in essential industry.
The virus itself is no more dangerous to the human body than other illnesses like the flu, however the ruling class attacks on public healthcare increase the risk, as they are not prepared to deal with the complications related to COVID-19. To hide this fact and obscure their own contradictions, the ruling class spreads mass hysteria about the virus; they promote it as a titan, undefeatable with modern medicine, so that the fault again rests on nature and not capitalism. Perhaps the most damning indictment against the capitalist’s deflections is that completely curable illnesses kill far more people every year on a global scale than this incurable one, for no other reason than the fact that medicine and treatment are luxury items available only to those who can afford them. This reality receives next to no media attention. Capitalism is the root cause of misery and mistreatment of the people, not nature or illness.
While ruling class politicians bandy about terms like “war” to describe the health crisis, they avoid looking at it in class terms. For them the virus is a negation of class struggle, a forced class collaboration. Many liberals and Social-Democrats close ranks with the imperialist ruling class, calling for increased state control over the masses, which just gives more repressive measures to the same people who allowed things to get this bad in the first place. They too promote the end of or the suspension of class struggle, because they cannot see past the surface to deduce the real causes of the overall crisis—which is not the virus itself but the inherent contradictions of capitalism/imperialism. Their solutions include arguing for more layoffs with no comprehensive program for securing wages for those thrust out of production, a rapidly growing number of people.
Imperialism is reaction all along the line, it makes good use out of all the hardships that befall the people. In a crisis of this magnitude it means having desperate workers compete for lowered wages, saving money for the ruling class as it buckles down for the depression it has ushered in. When the trend of social distancing proves itself limited at best, and useless at worst, there will be many angry people taking to the streets. Imperialism is staving off resistance and forcing conditions where they can exploit the worker for the minimum payout, subsistence, a fall in wages lower than the unlivable wage most workers already receive.
Social distancing is, like most things, unsustainable and disorganized under capitalism. Whatever its medical benefit may be is secondary to the fact that it cannot serve as a long-term or even intermediary solution. The ruling class is aware of this; they are using it for economic reasons, not health reasons. When this no longer suits them, they will reverse it regardless of the threat posed by the pandemic.
For revolutionaries, it is not hypocritical to state that the rights of the workers to work or to refuse to work are equally important and legitimate, and their wages should be guaranteed either way. For the working class to refuse being forced to work amidst a ruling class prescribed hysteria is a reasonable position. Likewise, the working class’ right to employment cannot and should not be thrown out. In all cases what is good for the working class is not good for the ruling class. The ruling class encourages hysteria about the virus to shift the blame for unemployment, while simultaneously putting essential workers at risk: everything they do is to protect their profits at the expense of the workers.
In the same way that the US imperialists pawn off their role in the economic crisis, and blame the virus for their inept healthcare system, they will not fail to create racist hysteria to blame China for the outbreak. Chinese social imperialism has both treated and contained the virus more effectively than the US imperialists, yet the ruling class media will still parrot terms like “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” in a transparent attempt to villainize the Chinese people. This also situates itself within the economic interests of US imperialism, by using the virus to promote xenophobia and anti-Chinese sentiment among the people which only serve its end of the inter-imperialist struggle. According to the US ruling class, there is no economic crisis and the current situation was caused by nature, but their twisted logic encourages them to blame Chinese people!
Imperialism both in the US and all over the world has implemented socially restrictive measures that can be continued after the pandemic is through, and this fact must not be obscured by legitimate concerns of viral transmission, or the bourgeois-induced hysteria.
The most right wing and reactionary sections of the US ruling class have desired and promised a closed border, Trump’s wall has been accomplished without a single bit of steel or a single brick, the virus has brought about the dreams of reaction, and without a single bit of opposition. Instead of opposing a border closure, the reactionary Trump is lambasted by liberals who now believe the border should have been shut tighter and sooner. This should be alarming to all border activists who understand that closed borders do not stop human migration, but make it deadlier for the migrants.
Things will not “go back to normal” after the pandemic, many small local businesses will not be able to reopen, especially those oriented to the working class as well as those which cater to the culture of oppressed communities. The large financial organizations will still have their millions to do what they want with the working class neighborhoods.
Reactionaries of all kinds have lamented the “divided” American society, as they dream of the kind of national unity desired by fascists. They have found a false reprieve in the virus, proclaiming a fake national unity across class lines. They are eager to promote the myth that class contradictions have now been mitigated by the presence of a common enemy in COVID-19, however nothing could be further from the truth.
The culture machine of US imperialism has spun its web, for decades it has prepared society for a panic. It has produced viral-based works of fiction, zombie stories and apocalyptic visions, as it dreams of blood. The popularity and design of this media speaks of, and promotes fear of one another. This is the social alienation of capitalism; the death culture indoctrinates society and cultivates the kind of responses that imperialists desire.
It is an ideal condition for imperialism that all social interaction moves toward digital mediums, which can be monitored closely. The ruling class and its state apparatus can be aware of every word, every sentence, and every published thought.
The ratcheting of China fears is a gesture towards war. While it is premature to predict that another World War is imminent, it is correct to state that the inter-imperialist contradiction is sharpened by the economic crisis, and consequently imperialism can only stumble from war to war, be it an open and direct World War or a multitude of civil wars as proxy for the imperialist powers themselves.
The virus hitting in an election year in the US, during a severe economic crisis could lead to even further negation of democratic rights, absentee and mail-in voting is more vulnerable to manipulation by the furthest right factions of the imperialist class. A contradiction exists between those imperialists who believe the ruling class should determine who manages their affairs by majority, and those who believe their faction should do so by position and force.
We see an inept Republican president who is more concerned with enacting his people hating agenda than he is with adequate testing or improving the rapidly decaying healthcare system. He makes risky financial moves and bets big on overcoming the crisis while it gets worse in every way.
The difference between the two ruling class parties is almost imperceptible; one did next to nothing to protect the health and financial well-being of the masses, while the other did literally nothing. The state itself starts to be seen as a failure, in major upheaval the contradictions which will tear them apart in time come into sharper focus for everyone to see.
Both parties advocate for checks to be sent to people making under $99,000 a year, usually these compensations are a fraction of a person’s wages, the least possible amount, a bribe to win moral support in the naked face of their own miserable failures. These bribes are meant to be further insurance against unrest and an attack on the workers slogan “work or wages.”
In spite of Trump’s total ineptitude and racist opportunism, the Democratic Party, through its petrified centrism and total lack of fighting ability, has all but made sure that Trump will take the 2020 election without him even having to manipulate it. Keeping in mind that some of his most reactionary goals and promises have already been met on the pretext of the virus, his failed presidency which has made everything worse for the masses has met its objectives.
As the virus makes the lives of the workers even more perilous and difficult, the imperialists hedge their bets, finding a way to protect themselves from the economic crisis they caused and the virus they failed to competently deal with at the expense of the workers. The crisis affects the lowest and deepest sections of the people the most, with indigenous reservations, food deserts, and especially undocumented communities unable to file for any relief at all. The fact that the ruling class keeps a sizable number of undocumented people in overcrowded cages, a veritable petri dish for infection, is perhaps the best single depiction of their failures.
Revolutionaries in the US are limited when it comes to fighting a contagion directly but they must find their footing in combating unemployment, forced work, the inadequate capitalist healthcare system, rent, and the extraction of profit from necessary utilities. In these struggles the masses are eager to fight, and even those who physically must quarantine themselves are still eager to make contributions. In these conditions the people must be rallied to the call of socialist revolution. Importantly, revolutionaries must not be distracted from their task to expose the imperialist crisis for what it is.
The curfews, which are based on no evidence of the virus being more deadly at night, expose the opportunism of the state regarding the pandemic. This must be exposed tirelessly, while considering the specific threats the virus poses to the most at-risk of the working class, the elderly, who have spent the vast majority of their lives creating profit for the ruling class while being mercilessly exploited by them. The imperialists stand poised to reverse the meager rights that elderly workers spent their lives fighting for, and both ruling parties are united in cheering for this.
The slogan of “combat and resist” asserts itself as correct—this is the path that must be taken for a new society where the health needs of the people can be placed before the private profit of the capitalist.
Asking, or increasingly, demanding that the people stay home is just one way that the ruling class place the burden on the poor. If and when such measures are appropriate, then the demand must be for uninterrupted wages when work is impossible. The demand for work or wages, for all workers documented or not, is a matter of forcing the ruling class to pay what they owe for a lifetime of work.
The resistance and rebellion of the masses is imminent, it swells like a tide angry and bashing at the walls of imperialism’s crumbling citadel. Revolutionaries would be fools to insist that the tide stays and the water be tamed. Revolutionaries must prove themselves in their practical response, no amount of statements will suffice.
While some middle class jobs are prepared to provide time off for their workforce or the flexibility to work from home, many workers do not have this provision. In a society where health insurance is a luxury, it is an understatement to insist that many will have to fight for bread.
The current reality would have been difficult for some to imagine even four years ago. There is a mostly closed border, increasing gestures toward martial law, it is forbidden to convene in groups of more than ten (or to convene at all in some places),and all while the whole economy crumbles and the vast majority cannot receive care from an overburdened privatized healthcare system. The hypocrisy of the imperialists is impossible to ignore. One year ago, French Prime Minister Emanuel Macron, unleashed his vicious police force on the Yellow Vest movement, who mobilized in part to protect the pensions of the elderly workers, and now the same imperialist engages in hand wringing, shedding crocodile tears for the same elderly people whose pensions he slashed. Macron has always posed more of a threat to the elderly in France than COVID-19, and this is the same of imperialists all over the world. Envisioning these changes years ago would have had many saying that they could not take place without a fight, well, the fight for us is only beginning to ramp up.
Capitalism has exposed its vile face in front of so many. Voting and trusting in the same capitalists who run the state has proven itself a moral and political failure. Now is the time to come to grips with socialist revolution, and with the fact that such a revolution will only come about by armed force. There is no other option, this is the barbarism we were warned of, and we must make revolution.
Contact Tribune of the People to develop support committees in your city, and get to know your neighbors, promote real socialist revolution everywhere: firstname.lastname@example.org