It is impossible to “play down” both the situation we are living in and the challenges and responsibilities that will follow from it. After the slaughter, comes the biggest attack since the end of world war two on the living conditions and basic needs of the workers. The worldwide wave of strikes and struggles that we are experiencing must serve as an accumulation of the forces needed to confront the post-epidemic world.
An epidemic that decimates the working class
The map of the evolution of the pandemic is atrocious. Yesterday, the United States reached 2,000 deaths in a single day, Great Britain a thousand, and Spain continues to add more than 500 deaths every day. The debates in Spain and Germany, like the upward corrections in France, can only increase the seriousness of what we are experiencing.
Those who said at the beginning that the epidemic was “democratic” did not realize how right they were. At this point it is a truism that Covid is deadlier where living and working conditions are worse and for those who, when they reach a certain age, end up confined to residences that are nothing but modern hospices. Be it in the US, Britain or Spain. And the fact is that, in a terrible way, class differences have once again proven to be above national differences. However, the media and the selection of statistics have not ceased in their constant effort to continue hiding it. The last attempt is to count the massacre of workers and the excluded in the United States, as if it were a result of race, desperately skirting the fact that the statistical differences express nothing other than the racialization of certain sectors of the American working class.
Class struggle for and during confinement
No wonder the working class around the world has reacted to the global threat with a simultaneous and massive outbreak of strikes aimed at stopping disease spread in non-essential workplaces.
Struggles that are spreading to essential services as well, as companies begin to accumulate wage arrears. The response, as we saw this week at Argentina’s meatpacking plants, has been instantaneous: layoffs, police repression… and new strikes.
This is a significant fact that gives us a clue as to what the post-epidemic world will be like. From Argentina to Armenia or the Philippines, the restriction of freedoms and the increase in repression have very possibly come to stay. Restrictions on the mobility of workers – even within the EU – are also a factor. And especially the “war against refugees and migrants”, as we already see in Italy or Great Britain, where the anti-migration policy continues to charge even against health personnel.
An unstoppable recession aggravated by imperialist conflict and petty bourgeois revolt
The recession is already a fact from South Africa to the US, where almost 18 million workers have already asked for unemployment benefits. France had the biggest drop in quarterly GDP since the strikes of 1968, 6%, Germany already predicts a drop in GDP of 4.2% by 2020 and Spain would reach 9% and would have four million more unemployed.
And within that framework, this week’s EU summit ended, as expected, laying the groundwork for a worsening of the recession already underway in Europe. This time, rather than Germany, it was the “small” imperialisms within the union – the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Denmark – that pushed until the end to turn the funding of the crisis into a weapon against their southern neighbors. The agreement finally reached, which puts a loan limit of 2% of its GDP to each country, is manifestly insufficient for the financing that Italy or Spain have already undertaken, but also for that which France calculated as necessary for itself. The foreseeable result is a new sovereign debt crisis.
The national bourgeoisies of southern Europe cannot fail to notice this. What lies ahead is a re-edition, in worse conditions, of the 2008 crisis. In worse conditions because this time they will be in the role of Greece and because the loss of sovereignty and “national champions” in benefit of their rivals is already on the horizon. But above all because this leads the bourgeoisie to redouble its attack on a working class that, as we have seen, is not letting itself be framed within the “sacred anti-viral union” despite the tons of propaganda per second from TV news and from every square centimeter of newspaper bombarding it every day.
There is also something taking place in Europe that we had pointed out over the last year in the countries on the capitalist periphery: fractalization. The degree of cohesion of the bourgeoisie is so precarious that the external conflicts of national capital almost automatically turn into internal dissent. And it seems that this is what is already happening in the Spanish bourgeoisie as a result of the battle over the coronabonds.
The Spanish case is especially interesting because it is serving as a global “laboratory” for post-confinement economic policies. Sánchez has been the first to promote a “National Agreement for Reconstruction”, presented as a new set of “Moncloa Pacts”, in order to recompose the unity of the political apparatus. He does not hide the fact that the objective is to be able to undertake a full-fledged offensive -disguised, of course, as “social justice“- in order to set in motion the greatest transfer of income from labor to capital since the years of the counterrevolution almost a century ago. The trade unions were the first to join in, of course. And the PP is getting ready. But that’s where the problems begin. Vox, the electoral expression of the revolt of the Spanish nationalist petty bourgeoisie, refuses to heed the call. And the PP does not want to leave the field of discontent vacant. The PSOE itself and Podemos feel the tension from their partners in government, the regional nationalists who express the centrifugal dimension of the revolt of the Spanish petty bourgeoisie. The latter do not want to enter either because it would mean losing the opportunity to capitalize on the discontent of their bases -the regional petty bourgeoisie- in the face of the coming attacks that will undoubtedly hurt them.
And if anyone thinks that the revolt of the petty bourgeoisie, which until now fought over the rents wrenched from the workers – from the holders of taxi licenses to farmers, not to mention Catalan independentism – can take on a meaning sympathetic to the workers, if only to weaken the coming offensive, he is very much mistaken. We need only look at their reactions and political demands today. Starting with farmers asking for subsidies in order to destroy food and produce scarcity… While workers can barely buy food. There are no programs more incompatible than that of the workers and the petty bourgeoisie.
The strikes that we see growing and expanding around the world on the interactive map that we update daily, mark the beginning of a period of build-up of forces. It is more important than ever to stop disease spread by imposing the basic need not to be infected and not to infect others, against the eagerness of capital to resume production. These are days when it is more important than ever to organize solidarity in our networks with comrades and families. And above all to gather strength to respond to the coming attacks. As the days go by, the words of our Argentine comrades sound more powerful:
Today the demands are marked by the coronavirus, but if we face the pandemic as workers, tomorrow, when the quarantine and the epidemic are over, in the battle against the attacks on our living conditions that will follow, we will become stronger.
We workers must defeat what makes us sick and kills us: just as we hold back our employers to defend health, we will defeat capital to save our humanity.