We face an unprecedented international health crisis. The Trump administration has made clear that they don’t care how many people die. The stimulus packages, his deranged announcement that we’ll all be back at work by Easter — these are all measures to bail out the economy and save capitalism from COVID-19. We are told that capitalist markets are the most efficient way to allocate resources in society, but the coronavirus crisis shows just how false this logic is. Reflecting the rage people feel at the system, the hashtag #NotDying4WallStreet is now trending on social media.
Since the virus hit the US in earnest, scores of mutual aid networks have emerged. They are inspiring examples of solidarity, showing how working people take care of one another in desperate situations. Mutual aid gives us a taste of what society could be like if we ran it ourselves. But in a crisis of this scale, mutual aid is not enough. We need to go beyond sharing the meager resources that working people already have. We need a national and international response to COVID-19 that puts human life over profit.
Below, Marx21 outlines a socialist response to the pandemic, including universal medical care, an economy that puts people before profit, relief for workers, protection for immigrants, and international solidarity to solve the crisis. But these are not demands that can be won simply by announcing them. Recommended social distancing guidelines make it difficult to hold mass protests and marches, or to mobilize many of the strategies and tactics we might ordinarily use to pressure governments and corporations.
Nevertheless, we have seen courageous and victorious struggles. In New York, teachers pressured the district to close schools to protect children and teachers from infection. French museum workers did the same at the Louvre. Detroit bus drivers led the way in transport, striking to win free transit and better sanitation. Auto-workers in the US have won partial plant shutdowns.
More struggles like this emerge each day the crisis goes on. Amazon workers are fighting for paid leave. Dockworkers in Oakland, California are threatening strike action unless management implements proper sanitation and safety measures. In Pittsburgh, garbage collection workers are leading a wildcat strike against unsafe conditions. In Italy, now the epicenter of the virus, workers are striking to halt production in non-essential industries, with full pay. In Australia, higher education unions are fighting for pay and conditions for casuals (adjuncts).
Not everyone works in industries with this kind of strike leverage. But in Portland and New Jersey, activists recently got creative with car protests — where people drive rather than march, so that they can still observe social distancing while demonstrating. In the UK, activists are running an anti-racist social media solidarity campaign with the slogan #MigrantsMakeOurNHS.
These kinds of struggles, built on solidarity and unity, show how we can win the things we need to survive this pandemic — as well as build the power necessary to create a society that puts ordinary people’s lives ahead of capitalist markets. We must generalize, lead, and support these kinds of movements in the weeks and months to come.
Healthcare for all
▶ Bring all hospitals under public control to centralize testing and treatment
▶ Mass produce COVID-19 testing and provide no-cost treatment — regardless of insurance, citizenship, or symptoms
▶ Publicly funded, non-competitive vaccine research and development
▶ Universal vaccination
▶ Restore CDC funding, including the pandemic preparedness team
▶ Restore funding to state and local public health agencies
Protect people over profits
▶ Retool industry and train workers to mass produce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and any other supplies that medical workers deem necessary
▶ Commandeer private buildings for additional medical and housing facilities as needed
▶ Full national moratorium on rent, mortgages, and evictions
▶ No-cost utilities for all, including water, gas, electricity, public transport, and the internet
▶ Regulate food distribution to prevent shortages and price-gouging
▶ Divert police funding to essential services, release prisoners, and create safe and accountable rehabilitation alternatives
Relief for impacted workers
▶ Guaranteed living wage throughout the pandemic and recovery — regardless of immigration or employment status
▶ Hazard pay, above a living wage, for essential workers including grocery, delivery, and sanitation workers
▶ Adequate safety and sanitation measures at workplaces that must remain open during the pandemic
▶ Cancel all student loan debt
Protect immigrants and refugees
▶ Immediately release all detained immigrants
▶ Open all US borders, test and treat all migrants seeking entry to the US
▶ End all ICE and CBP operations
▶ Aid, not sanctions, for Iran and all other countries impacted by the virus
▶ Cancel all foreign debt
▶ Collaborate with the World Health Organization to implement international monitoring, data collection, and treatment infrastructure