The COVID-19 Pandemic: What Way Forward?
IN THIS DOSSIER (articles and documents reprinted from the April 2020 issue of The Organizer newspaper):
1) The COVID-19 Pandemic: WHAT WAY FORWARD? — Editorial of The Organizer newspaper (April 2020)
2) Biden: A “Friend of Labor”? — By Bradley Wiedmaier
3) Stop Wisconsin Scenario for November 2020 Vote! — by Ralph Schoenman and Bradley Wiedmaier
4) Statement of Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) on the COVID-19 Pandemic and “Who Is Responsible?”
DOCUMENTS (reprinted from Unity & Independence supplement):
5) The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Urgent Need to Break the Grip of the Two-Party System — Statement by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)
6) APPEAL – National Conference: “Breaking the Grip of the Two-Party System”
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1) The COVID-19 Pandemic: WHAT WAY FORWARD?
EDITORIAL of the April 2020 Issue of The Organizer Newspaper
The rapid spread of the COVID-19 pandemic across the country has exposed for all to see the barbaric consequences of the capitalist system in decay.
The United States, the richest country in the world, was totally unprepared to deal with the pandemic. Trump’s cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to the Office of Pandemics and Emerging Threats are contributing factors, no doubt. More fundamentally, it is the drastic bipartisan cuts to our hospitals and healthcare services over the past 30 years, as well as the total failure of our employer-based healthcare system, that are responsible for the United States being the number one country in the world in terms of COVID-19 infections, hospitalizations, and deaths.
How is it possible, more and more workers are asking, that our government cannot provide sufficient testing kits to contain the pandemic, or proper protective equipment for frontline workers, or ventilators and dialysis equipment, or hospital beds, or shelters for the homeless? The answer is simple: We are living under a system based on the private ownership of the means of production that is oriented to profit, instead of meeting human needs. It’s a system that knows only how to sow war, exploitation, and destruction, both at home and abroad. It’s a system addicted to speculation and war spending. [See the OCRFI “Capitalism Is Responsible” statement in this issue.]
We are living under a system, moreover, that is killing Blacks and Latinos at a disproportionate rate due to a legacy of racism and white supremacy, heightened poverty, overcrowded living space, and chronic medical conditions resulting from environmental racism and lack of healthcare coverage. In Milwaukee, a city with a 25% Black population, 67% of patients infected with COVID-19 are Black, and 81% of COVID-19 deaths are Black. Milwaukee is not an anomaly; it just happens to be one of the few places in the country that tracks the racial breakdown of people with the virus.
[For more on the spread of the pandemic and the growing fightback to demand workers’ health and safety, see the statement in this issue by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP).]
Illusory Quest to Reform the Democratic Party
The failure, yet again, of Bernie Sanders’ electoral campaign also exposes the dead-end strategy aimed at reforming the Democratic Party. It was a sorry spectacle — though not unexpected — to see Bernie Sanders on April 13 formally endorse Joe Biden, a candidate who is openly and frontally opposed to all the progressive planks in Sanders’ platform.
Biden, lest we forget, joined forces with the Democratic National Committee (DNC), Barack Obama (as we have since learned from Politico), and the corporate media — to red-bait and gang up against Sanders to torpedo his candidacy, just as the DNC did to Sanders in 2016, when they brazenly rigged the election. There was never a chance in hell that Sanders would get the Democratic Party nomination. All illusions in such an outcome were and remain thoroughly misguided.
If Sanders was given a podium by the Democratic Party establishment it was primarily to sheepdog the disillusioned and disenfranchised back into the Democratic Party. Sanders’ appeal to his constituents to support Biden is just that.
Biden is now seeking to woo Sanders’ supporters by giving lip service to a few of the issues that Sander,.s and his supporters have advocated. Some concessions may even be made in the quest to lure Sanders’ youth and Latino base. But this won’t be an easy task, as Biden is perceived widely as just one more Wall Street candidate, however much he may try to parade as an “average Joe.” [See Bradley Wiedmaier’s article on Joe Biden in this issue.]
Stepped-Up Attacks of Working People Forthcoming
After the COVID-19 dust settles, the bosses and financial institutions will start demanding greater austerity in the name of repaying the huge debt incurred by the record-setting corporate bailout — a debt that only marginally and temporarily benefited working people. You can be sure that whichever of the bosses’ candidates is elected in November, be it Biden or Trump, he will do Wall Street’s bidding against workers and all the oppressed.
In fact, there are already signs of what’s to come.
“[Democratic California Governor Gavin] Newsom suddenly faces tough and unexpected choices that may require him to temporarily disappoint allies,” states a front-page article in the April 19 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Advocates are pushing to expand social services just as tax revenue is drying up. Industries teetering on the edge are seeking regulatory relief from laws revered by organized labor.”
“As California appears to be hurtling into a severe recession,” Newsom noted, “everything is on the table.” Concretely this means that Medi-Cal, AB5 (which makes it harder for companies to label workers as independent contractors), the minimum wage hike, and labor and environmental regulations will be on the chopping block — and not just “temporarily.”
The LFN, UPP, LCIP statement put it this way:
“Economists predict that the unemployment rate could shoot up to 30% in the coming months [that is, more than 50 million people — Ed. note]. We know already to whom the two parties of the bosses will turn to bear the brunt of keeping capitalism intact. …
“The working class still is reeling from the 2008 bailout. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the mantra will be that there are no funds to pay for essential social services, education, healthcare, and other public benefits. Employer-provided healthcare benefits, in particular, will be eliminated or the cost thrust onto workers since the insurance industry already has projected a 40% increase in rates. Wages, let alone wage increases and pension benefits, will be on the chopping block, too.”
The working class should not be made to bear the brunt of a failed capitalist system. There are more than enough resources available to ensure that every person in this country has a job, quality healthcare, adequate housing, and debt-free public education up through college.
Adopting Medicare for All to provide quality healthcare to all who live in this country, whether documented or not, is now a matter of life and death for countless numbers of people. It is time to take Big Pharma and Big Healthcare Insurance companies out of the healthcare equation. It is also time to halt and reverse the privatization of hospitals and public services. It is time to save the U.S. Postal Service.
The huge sums in speculative funds should be confiscated as a beginning. All corporations that fail to increase wages and sign collective-bargaining agreements with trade unions — or that fail to retool to ensure a Just Transition to a Green New Deal — should be nationalized under workers’ control.
A massive public works program to rebuild our collapsing infrastructure and public schools should be the first order of business to put millions of unemployed people back to work.
You also can be sure that if elected, Biden, who during the primary debates went out of his way to be the most hawkish of the candidates on the stage, will pursue, if not deepen, the U.S. policies of war, occupation and sanctions against oppressed peoples the world over. Under Biden, hundreds of billions of dollars will continue to pour into the coffers of the military-industrial complex. What is needed urgently is to close all U.S. military bases abroad and slash drastically the military budget and earmark these funds for social services and human needs.
These are just a few of the emergency measures that should be adopted.
Affirming Labor’s Independence
A pre-condition for moving in this direction, however, is for the trade union movement to affirm its independence in relation to the bosses and the twin parties of Big Business. The unions must refuse to be co-opted into co-managing the austerity measures that are bound to come down the pike.
Trump has set up a large “Great American Economic Revival” board headed by the captains of industry and finance. It’s a Wall Street set-up through and through. The co-chairs of this board are CEOs Mary Berra (General Motors), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), and Marc Benioff (Salesforce). The CEOs of Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase, and Bank of America also have been invited to play a leadership role.
The list of invitees includes Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO; James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters union; and Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU. These top labor officials must refuse to participate in a committee whose main job will be to continue bailing out Wall Street and the corporate elite.
Labor should learn the lessons of the labor-management partnership agreements of the 1980s. UAW President Doug Fraser, for example, was brought onto the Board of Directors of Chrysler Corp. His task was to help the bosses undermine the UAW contract and downsize the workforce — all of which he accomplished.
What Lessons Should Be Drawn from the Failed Sanders Campaign?
Growing numbers of labor and community activists — including many in Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), an organization that campaigned for Sanders — are drawing the correct lesson from Sanders’ failed campaign — that is, that workers need their own independent working class political party.
This conclusion, unfortunately, is not shared by far too many trade unionists and political activists. One example among many is Dustin Guastella, who wrote a recent article in Jacobin titled, “Like It or Not, If We Run Third Party, We Lose.”
Guastella acknowledges the growing voices for independent politics. He writes:
“After two failures in two consecutive cycles to capture the Democratic nomination, we’ve seen the return of familiar calls for the creation of a new political party, one free of a ballot line that has long been inhospitable to radicals.”
Having said that, Guastella goes on to polemicize against this view. He continues:
“No political party in the modern era in the United States has been capable of breaking out of the margins of national politics. … We have to re-think what ‘independent’ means. We need an organization — a ‘party surrogate’ — with all sorts of talented people. It would be a dues-paying membership organization that would serve many of the functions of a traditional labor party. And it could be pretty successful as long as it competes in the major party primaries on a major party ballot line.”
There is nothing new about this orientation. Guastella is proposing just one more version of the tired orientation of creating a pressure group on the Democratic Party. His “re-thinking ‘independent’” leads back to supporting Democrats and running on the Democratic Party ballot line. There is, of course, nothing at all independent about such an effort. It has been tried for decades under different guises, and it has always failed.
A Novel Effort to Get a Labor-Based Party Off the Ground
Creating one more marginal third party is obviously not a worthwhile orientation. What we need is a mass-based second party — a labor-based party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed. The ruling capitalist class finances and controls its One Big Property Party with two names: the Democrats and Republicans. Working people need their own independent party.
More than 700 trade unionists and activists have endorsed a statement — at the initiative of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — that calls for running independent labor-community candidates at the local and state level as a step in the effort to build a new independent labor-based political party.
The LCIP Statement of Purpose lays out the campaign’s two-pronged objectives:
“Our first objective is to promote running independent labor-community candidates beginning in 2020 at a local and state level around a platform that embraces workers’ and communities’ pressing demands. …
“Our second objective is to promote widely in the trade union movement a committee that advocates for a Labor-based Political Party. A resolution adopted by the October 2017 national convention of the AFL-CIO affirmed that, ‘whether the candidates are elected from the Republican or Democratic Party, the interests of Wall Street have been protected and advanced, while the interests of labor and working people have generally been set back.’ A second convention resolution concluded that, ‘the time has passed when we can passively settle for the lesser of two evils politics’.”
These independent candidates and coalitions, moreover, cannot be limited to electoral politics; they must fight for the issues contained in the platforms, projecting these struggles into the electoral arena. This will help cement the alliance between labor and the oppressed communities.
A concrete step has been taken in this direction. LCIP, the Labor Fightback Network and the Ujima People’s Progress Party have joined forces to convene a national conference for independent politics to be held in Baltimore in the late summer. The conference will be held in the heart of the Black community and will incorporate the struggle for independent Black working-class political action. [See the Appeal for the Baltimore conference in this issue. If necessary due to COVID-19 restrictions, the conference will be held online.]
The editorial board of The Organizer newspaper strongly supports the Baltimore conference. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis and the unfolding economic recession, we believe that there are big openings for moving the discussion — and action— around independent working-class politics many steps forward.
That is why, in our view, there is no time to lose. The time is now to put into place the building blocks of a new independent working-class party. The time is here to form local independent labor-community coalitions that promote united fightback struggles and begin running independent labor-community candidates at the local level.
The Organizer newspaper will promote actively every effort on this path. We also will continue to explain that as such an independent working-class party comes into being, it will be confronted with the need to raise demands — transitional demands — that challenge the very foundations of the private ownership of the means of production.
To secure the demands of the working class and all the oppressed, to help advance the struggles of working people the world over, such an independent labor-based party will be compelled to go beyond the bounds of capitalist property relations.
Only a socialist society, with democratic decision-making by the working class and all the oppressed, will be able to provide viable solutions to the enormous problems and issues with which human beings and the environment are confronted. Socialism or capitalist barbarism — those are the alternatives facing humanity today.
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2) Biden: A “Friend of Labor”?
By BRADLEY WIEDMAIER
Former Vice President Joe Biden has a long 48-year history of espousing public positions while holding private views at odds with them. Biden, disguised by the corporate media as “middle-class Joe,” the “friend of labor” and “pro-working man,” kicked off his spring 2019 campaign for president at a “large-contributor event” sponsored by principals of Jackson Lewis, the biggest union-busting law firm in the country.
During the first year of the Obama administration Biden helped sell to labor “postponement” of the Employees Free Choice Act, EFCA. It never passed.
The following list of Biden positions illustrates how he engineered and prepared the ground for the conditions that enabled the Trump victory. These politics run counter to the pro-working class advocate, Biden pretends to be.
- Biden backed the repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall Act, which led to further deregulation of financial entities and accelerated income inequality.
- Biden backed the Bankruptcy Bill of 2005, which earned him the moniker “Senator from MBNA,” the largest Credit Card Bank Company in Delaware.
- Biden voted for and supported the reactionary Hyde Amendment until only last year, denying his position in 2019. The amendment blocks federal Medicaid funding for abortions.
- In the 1990s Biden supported the reactionary Defense of Marriage Act. Fifteen years later he purported to reverse position and push President Obama in 2012 to support Same Sex Marriage.
- During the Obama-Care fight for the Affordable Care Act, Biden opposed the public option. He’s for it today, he claims. He favors it now as a foil to the Single Payer/Medicare for All movement.
- When Biden was asked if as president he would sign a Single-Payer “Medicare for All” health bill that had been passed by Congress. Biden indicated that he would veto it.
- Biden pushed for the Afghan war, to the point of having a secure direct phone line to the George W. Bush White House to marshal support for it in Congress.
- Biden supported the campaign and voted for the Iraq war. As Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair, Biden blocked all anti-war testimony. Biden continued his advocacy of dividing Iraq into three separate ethnically distinct entities, utilizing the classic methods of colonial destruction of national sovereignty of the oppressed.
- Biden chaired the Senate Committee that oversaw Anita Hill’s corroborating testimony being excluded from the Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. His perfidy was a model for engineering the Justice Kavanaugh confirmation, guaranteeing authoritarian dominance of the Supreme Court.
- Biden’s “balanced budget” position, including major cuts to Social Security, espoused under Reagan, Clinton and subsequent presidents was cited by Bernie Sanders during the March 2020 debate.
- In Biden’s 2008 run for president, Biden declared that Obama was the first major African-American candidate for president “who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice looking guy” – a racist litany widely noted.
- In the 2020 primary election coverage, the corporate establishment media broadcast intensively and focused on Bernie Sanders’ presumptive “weakness” in the regional Southern states among Black voters, rather than avow the many states where Sanders tied or bested Biden’s Black community and non-white support. There was no coverage of the Minnesota Sanders vote, where the virtual tie of his Black community support was 43% to Biden’s 45%, and is an entirely different story.
No coverage of Sanders’ Black vote in Arizona was allowed, where Sanders received 44% to Biden’s 45%. In exit polls in Arizona, California, Minnesota, Massachusetts, Nevada, Texas, and other sstates, Sanders beat Biden in the non-white vote. The claim that Sanders was universally overwhelmed by Biden in the vote of the communities of the oppressed was a dishonest construction.
This canard was projected to stampede voters away from Sanders’ candidacy and radical advocacy, while huge majorities continued to support his positions, such as Medicare for All, which had overwhelming 70% support in Florida, and in nearly all other states.
- Biden, in fact, collaborated closely with Obama, the Democratic National Committee, and the corporate media CEOs to torpedo the Sanders’ candidacy.
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3) Stop Wisconsin Scenario for November 2020 Vote!
By Ralph Schoenman and Bradley Wiedmaier
The Wisconsin 2020 primary election held April 7 could serve as a disastrous precursor of what may occur in the national 2020 November general election. Legal challenges decided by the Wisconsin Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court forced a completely partisan and undemocratic election to take place this April, when the Republican Wisconsin legislature wouldn’t reschedule it. Republicans blocked all efforts to postpone the vote and suppressed the vote selectively to serve their political interests. A strategic Republican state Supreme Court Justice re-election, endorsed by Trump, drove the primary forward even as the vote put the entire electorate’s health at risk in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The implications for November’s national election were spelled out by the Bloomberg financial news on April 9. “The lethal ruling this week by the U.S. Supreme Court’s Republican bloc required Wisconsin residents to vote in person during a pandemic that shut down polling stations. This is a preview of the fall campaign.” Bloomberg concluded, “The GOP intends to restrict vote-by-mail and other legitimate enfranchisement to suppress turnout amid fear, uncertainty and disease.”
Blacks and Other Center-City Poor Targeted
Let us look at the specifics: The urban vote of the oppressed communities of color and center-city poor were reduced severely with the disenfranchisement of substantial numbers of voters in Milwaukee, Oshkosh and Appleton. The 2020 primary vote in Milwaukee, the largest city in the state, is considered to be half the total of the 2016 primary. In the Appleton-Oshkosh metropolitan area, with the third highest population of Wisconsin urban areas, many voters were disenfranchised. Thousands of vote-by-mail ballots were found at the Post office, never having reached their destination. Additional completed ballots had no postmark date and were not counted.
With the crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 1 million additional voters had requested vote-by-mail ballots at the last minute. This eclipsed the 250,000 vote-by-mail in previous elections, when the Republican-majority legislature refused to postpone the vote-in-person.
Nor did they allow more time for vote-by-mail ballots to arrive into voters’ hands, be returned, and counted. The Democratic governor attempted to postpone the in-person-vote until June and extend the deadline for the vote-by-mail. He was blocked by the State Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court rulings. The U.S. Supreme Court wouldn’t allow even an extension of an additional week for ballots to be returned in the midst of the pandemic.
In Milwaukee normally 180 vote-polling locations are in service, but in 2020 there were only five. So many polling places were shut down that the long lines and extra hours that the process took compounded the life-threatening danger for in-person voting, especially for the vulnerable people with underlying health conditions. Voters thus were forced to risk their lives to exercise their political voting rights.
Seniors make up the majority of poll workers. Many of these older poll workers followed the existing stay-at-home order and boycotted in droves. Staffing thus became a huge problem in an election that should have been postponed.
Deepening Assault on Voting Rights
Wisconsin’s 2020 primary election disaster had been prepared over many years. As in Wisconsin and other Republican majority states, assaults on voting rights have been gaining momentum. Wisconsin and the other states instituted targeted voter I.D. requirements that removed 200,000 from voting in Wisconsin’s 2016 presidential election, which Trump won by a mere 23,000 votes. Their goal is to remove another 200,000 Wisconsin voters.
Most devastating to turnout, the Republicans have made voting harder by limiting vote-by-mail and early voting, restricting polling hours, decreasing numbers of polling places, and forbidding student participation by those previously from out-of-state. These are among the many methods to suppress the vote and render specific communities disenfranchised.
Both parties have used gerrymandering additionally to cement their hold on the voters among the “Red” trending Republican states or the “Blue” trending Democratic states. Wisconsin has become a swing battleground state. Republicans had lost support and went on to gerrymander the legislative districts so that today their minority vote of 47% for the current legislature still awarded them 64% of the seats! This is a central tool in giving them the ability to strip powers from the Democratic governor and continue to suppress further Democratic Party and alternative voters.
The two-party capitalist hold on power that exists today is a turf war in many states and urban areas. The Republicans are most brazenly exercising voter suppression to hold on to the several swing states and many “Red” States. Donald Trump set out to block Democrats’ support for vote-by-mail and other enfranchisement. He fears voting, “that would never allow a Republican to be elected in this country again.” Democrats don’t call for voting improvements in all the turf they control, nor open voting rights to those outside the stranglehold of the two monopoly parties. The Democrats only use enfranchisement strategically and selectively.
It took an enraged electorate that refused to be disenfranchised to overcome the enormous obstacles with which they were confronted. The Republican plan to disrupt and diminish the vote in Wisconsin was a spectacular failure. The Trump-endorsed Wisconsin Supreme Court judge who sought re-election on a platform that called for purging additional huge numbers from the voting rolls, was swept out of office by a wide margin.
Now, as we head towards November, we must build and unite the resistance to get past this voter suppression juggernaut.
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(4) Statement of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) on the COVID-19 Pandemic and “Who Is Responsible?”
The failed capitalist system and the governments that serve its interests: they are guilty and responsible for the growth of the coronavirus pandemic!
At the time of writing, no-one can predict the inevitably disastrous outcome of the coronavirus pandemic that is threatening the lives of millions of men, women and children around the world.
On the other hand, the conditions that have allowed and are allowing the pandemic to take on catastrophic proportions, the conditions that are allowing it to spread rapidly across the whole planet, these are known by the workers and peoples of the whole world.
Because they are the result of all the political decisions taken and implemented for decades by the governments of the big capitalist powers, but also by the governments of the dominated countries on every continent, all of them guided only by championing the interests of the big multinationals, the big banks and speculation. These are political decisions that flow from subordinating the whole of human civilisation to the law of capitalist profit.
The political decisions by capitalist governments – whether they call themselves “left-wing”, “progressive” or right- wing – are dismantling social welfare systems that the workers had won through their class struggle.
The political decisions by capitalist governments are dismantling and privatising public healthcare systems, cutting hundreds of thousands of medical and hospital staff jobs, as well as hundreds of thousands of hospital beds, thousands of hospitals, medical units and local health centres.
The political decisions by capitalist governments are financially strangling public basic research, rendering scientists powerless in their research into emerging viruses.
The political decisions by capitalist governments are allowing pharmaceutical corporations to accumulate enormous profits through production at the lowest possible “labour cost”, resulting in the current shortage of products as simple as masks, testing kits and disinfectant products.
The political decisions by capitalist governments, like those of the United States, Britain, Germany, France and Canada, are organising the pillage of the nations of Africa, Latin America and Asia — pillage which, according to UNICEF, has resulted in 3 billion human beings (40 percent of the world’s population) not having access to soap or running water, and so cannot wash their hands several times a day to limit transmission of the virus. Not to mention the billions of human beings who can only feed themselves once a day.
To the dramatic consequences of those decisions can now be added the social consequences of the new financial crash, which for months was clearly imminent as a continuation of the 2008-2009 crisis and the onset of which has been speeded by the pandemic. Already, this is being expressed in the announcement of plans for massive lay-offs and job-cuts in the automotive, aviation, banking, retail, garment, private power-loom and service sectors, to mention just a few.
Today, most of the capitalist governments – beginning with the U.S. administration and the governments of the main European powers and their European Union – have been seized by panic and are being led to announce exceptional measures in an attempt to deal with the situation. More determined than ever to “bail out the economy”, in other words to offer billions of dollars or euros to the capitalists, some are announcing that they are “challenging the policies for limiting budget deficits”, others are talking of temporary nationalisation of businesses and a freeze on evictions and home repossessions during the crisis. Everything that was considered to be impossible yesterday is today being conjured up by frantic governments. But the workers are not being fooled!
They know that those governments devoted to the capitalists’ interests, those anti-working-class governments, have not changed their nature.
They know that, even though these measures are being conjured up, and even though these measures or some of them are being implemented partially and temporarily, those governments will in the future take back a hundredfold what they have pretended to give over a few weeks.
The truth is that not one of those governments, whatever the political label – right or “left” – of the parties that comprise them, is taking the least of the genuine measures for safeguarding the population that are needed today to beat the pandemic! 
What measures appropriate to the situation would a government take if it were genuinely concerned to protect the health of the vast majority?
– Such a government would place the entire production apparatus under state control and immediately direct it towards producing goods that are indispensable for stamping out the epidemic: masks, testing kits, disinfectant products, ventilators, medicines, etc. It would organise the systematic testing of the whole population. To do so, it would not hesitate to requisition the big enterprises (starting with the pharmaceutical corporations) and the banks’ assets.
Such a government would immediately reopen all hospital facilities that have been closed down, it would requisition all available premises needed to house as soon as possible the hospital facilities and life support units that are indispensable for meeting current and future needs.
– Such a government would take the billions from where they are today, in order to ensure that medical care is free to all, and that the funding is there for all the medical staff and equipment that are needed to run hospitals properly.
– Such a government would organise the containment of the whole population, in particular by obliging businesses to guarantee the payment of wages to all employees who are isolating themselves at home. And in the dominated countries, where the vast majority of the workforce are in the “informal sector”, without regular wages or guarantees, such a government would guarantee to each worker an income to live on satisfactorily during the period of confinement. It would organise the distribution of the foodstuffs and basic subsistence products needed by the population.
– Such a government would nationalise or renationalise basic research, and would allocate to scientific teams the funds needed for research into emerging viruses and other diseases.
– Such a government would proceed immediately with the requisition of residential buildings and would house all homeless and badly-housed people, for whom the “containment” measures that have been announced are meaningless as long as they do not have a home.
– Such a government would decree an immediate halt to evictions, it would declare a moratorium on the payment of rent and rental charges, it would decide to immediately ban lay-offs and job-cuts. Such a government would order price controls on basic necessities and medicines, in view of the fact that the major retail chains and pharmacy chains are pushing up prices everywhere on the pretext of the pandemic and the economic crisis.
– Especially in order to do all this, such a government would requisition the big powers’ military budgets, which today continue to fund imperialism’s military interventions against the peoples. More generally and irrespective of the country, such a government would redirect credits allocated to the military towards the needs of the hospitals.
– Such a government would immediately stop servicing both the domestic and external debt. It would confiscate the billions tied up in speculation (especially the speculation currently being carried out by the big corporations in relation to the fall in the value of their own shares!) and apply them to servicing the healthcare needs of the vast majority.
A government that would take such measures that are needed for the survival of working people, measures that are contradictory to the demands of the capitalist class, would not hesitate to break with that class.
For our part, organised in the OCRFI and fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International, in each of our countries we declare ourselves in favour of forming such governments that will exclusively serve the interests of the vast majority, and we will support any step by the working-class organisations in this direction. Such governments will not hesitate to requisition the pharmaceutical corporations, large companies and the enormous assets of the banks in order to fund measures for protecting the urban workers, rural workers and the youth.
But it must be recognised that today, not one of the current capitalist governments – of whichever political label – wants to go down this path.
Rather, even as they talk of “waging war” on the pandemic, they are all refusing to tackle the sacrosanct private ownership of the means of production, because as far as they are concerned, protecting private ownership takes priority way ahead of the needs of working people.
Not only are they not taking the necessary measures, they are using the pandemic and the crisis to reinforce all existing anti-working-class and anti-democratic measures.
The U.S. administration in particular, by maintaining and ramping up its criminal sanctions against Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Zimbabwe and other countries, is taking advantage of the pandemic in an attempt to increase the pressure on these nations.
And what is there to say about the open-air prison that is the Gaza Strip, one of the world’s most densely populated territories, where, as the result of 14 years of murderous blockade imposed with the complicity of the “international community”, more than 2 million Palestinians have barely 50 testing kits and 100 protection masks available to them?
And what is there to say about the millions of refugees who have been driven from their homes by imperialism’s wars, with tens of thousands of them penned inside unhealthy camps in the Greek islands, to whom the European Union and all of its governments are refusing to grant asylum and thus delivering them up to illness?
So, despite their resounding declarations and their current promises, all of the capitalist governments are guilty and responsible for the barbarism that is being revealed by the pandemic.
In these conditions, is it not shameful to see the leaders of the political organisations that speak in the workers’ name rally round in a Sacred Union  with the capitalist governments in several countries around the world?
Is it not shameful to see parties that speak in the workers’ name support the existing capitalist governments, precisely at a time when the latter are passing “state of emergency” measures in the various parliaments, measures that are extending the capitalist governments’ offensive against social gains and democratic rights?
Although they know that the health measures for slowing down the pandemic are necessary, nevertheless the workers do not conclude from this that they must fall into the trap that is being set for them in the form of a Sacred Union with the exploiters and their governments.
The workers are entitled to demand of every organisation that speaks in their name that it immediately break with the Sacred Union which their leaders have established with the capitalist governments.
By contrast, in recent days we have seen a big increase in strikes, wildcat strikes, work stoppages, threats of strike action, collective workers’ initiatives and other class-based action in the United States, Italy, France, Algeria, Chile, Peru and other countries, where the workers together with their trade union organisations are refusing to be forced to carry on working without any protection from the pandemic.
In many countries, we have seen the workers refuse to allow the capitalist governments to use the current crisis to increase all of the attacks on the gains won through the class struggle and on democratic rights, just as they are rejecting the capitalists’ calls to make them pay for “their” crisis and its consequences.
In China, as soon as the pandemic started to slow down, we have seen the workers resume strike action and mass protests to impose their rights.
More than ever, the workers can only count on their own strength, as stated in the words of the workers’ international song, The Internationale: “Our own right hand the chains must shiver: Chains of hatred, greed and fear.”
For our part, organised in the OCRFI and fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International, we affirm that the events which humankind is living through today confirm the validity of the class struggle, the fight to put an end to the failed system of capitalism based on private ownership of the means of production.
The events confirm the validity of the fight for a government that will safeguard working people, that will carry out the structural changes which are needed for the benefit of the vast majority, in other words the fight for socialism.
No more and no less, we are dealing with defending and preserving human civilisation.
The organisations, groups and activists around the world that are fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International know that in that fight, they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the workers, activists, youth, and the political tendencies and currents that are seeking to preserve the independence of the working class and its organisations.
And in particular, they are standing shoulder-to-shoulder with all those who, in more than 50 countries, are preparing the success of the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International, which will take place on 5-6 November 2020 in Paris.
• For an end to war and exploitation!
• For an end to capitalist barbarism!
• For the defence of humankind and civilisation!
• Join the struggle of the Fourth International, join the ranks of the OCRFI organisations!
—24 March 2020
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 The OCRFI condemns in the strongest possible terms the racist statements by Trump and his acolytes, accusing China of being responsible for the coronavirus. The truth is that the Chinese bureaucracy, after denying the epidemic and repressing those who sounded the alarm, was forced to mobilise the vast resources under state ownership, building new hospitals in a matter of days and taking measures to contain the epidemic, an objective that is currently being reached in China…which is not the case in any of the main capitalist powers in Europe and North America. Similarly, whatever point of view one might have regarding the policy of the Cuban bureaucracy, the fact remains that Cuban doctors have been sent to the countries that have been worst hit, despite decades of the criminal blockade to which Cuba has been subjected.
 Translator’s note: The union sacrée or Sacred Union was a political truce in France during the First World War, in which a significant part of the socialist movement agreed not to oppose the government or call any strike, in the name of patriotism.
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This statement is endorsed by:
Afghanistan: OCRFI activists in Afghanistan
Algeria: Organising Committee of International Socialists of Algeria (COSI)
Azania-South Africa: Azanian section of the Fourth International (AS-FI)
Bangladesh: Bangladeshi section of the Fourth International
Belgium: Internationalist Socialist Organisation (OSI), Belgian section of the Fourth International
Benin: Liaison Committee of Benin Trotskyists (CLTB)
Brazil: Internationalist Communist Organisation (OCI), Brazilian organisation linked with the OCRFI
Britain: Charles Charalambous, editor of Labour Internationalist, publication of the British supporters of the OCRFI Burundi: Burundian section of the Fourth International
Canada: Liaison Committee of Trotskyists in Canada – OCRFI
Chile: Chilean Trotskyist group
Côte d’Ivoire: M, Ivoirian activist
France: Internationalist Communist Tendency (TCI) of the POID, French section of the Fourth International (member of the OCRFI)
Germany: German section of the OCRFI
Greece: Andreas, editor of Ergatika Nea [Labour News]
Haiti: Berthony Dupont, Haiti Liberté [Haiti Freedom], member of the IWC
Hungary: Supporters of the Fourth International
India: Spark group, Franklynd d’Souza, Subhas Naik
Italy: Italian section of the Fourth International
Mexico: Internationalist Communist League (OCRFI)
Morocco: OCRFI supporters in Morocco
Pakistan: Pakistani section of the Fourth International
Peru: Socialist Internationalist Groupe (GSI), Peruvian section of the OCRFI
Portugal: A Internacional [The Internationale] Group (OCRFI)
Romania: Romanian section of the OCRFI
Russia: Group of supporters of the OCRFI
Senegal: Activist sympathisers of the OCRFI
Serbia: Jacim Milunovic, labour activist
South Korea: Council of Korea’s activists – Solidarity
Switzerland: Wolfgang Eichenberger, on behalf of Tribune Ouvrière [Labour Tribune]
Togo: Steve, Togolese activist of the Fourth International
Tunisia: L, Tunisian activist
Turkey: Marxist Workers League, Turkish section of the OCRFI
United States: Socialist Organizer, section of the Fourth International in the United States (OCRFI)
Zimbabwe: Mafa Kwanisai Mafa, OCRFI Zimbabwe
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National and international contact address: email@example.com
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DOCUMENTS FROM UNITY & INDEPENDENCE SUPPLEMENT:
5) The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Urgent Need to Break the Grip of the Two-Party System
Statement by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)
The United States, the global epicenter of capitalist inequality, has become in fact the global epicenter of disease and death. After 40 years of cutbacks and relentless efforts to destroy everything the working class has been able to build over a century and a half of struggle, we are confronted now with a triple-layered crisis: public-health, financial and political.
On the Public-Health Front: A Vulnerable Nation
The nationwide cuts to public-health budgets have been drastic, and they have been bipartisan. To give just one defining example: In California, a state with Democrats at the helm, per-capita public-health spending has been cut by 18% since 2008, essential public hospitals closed, and funding slashed for two state programs designed specifically for a statewide response in case of an epidemic emergency.
At the same time, 28 million working people nationwide remain without healthcare insurance, while an additional 59.6 million people are under-insured. The unjust character of the U.S. healthcare system was on full display with the recent death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster, Calif., who had been infected with COVID-19 and was turned away from a private hospital for lack of health insurance. The boy died shortly afterwards from septic shock.
“Apocalytic” captures the situation described by medical personnel trying to cope with the situation at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital without essential protective gear and equipment.
As these lines were written, 305 died in New York City in just one day (one person every 4.7 minutes), and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the City would run out of ventilators to keep people alive in a matter of a few days.
Across the country, healthcare workers are confronted by or soon will be facing similar conditions. “It’s a powder keg,” staff at San Francisco’s 750-bed public nursing home declared.
It has been scarcely more than one month ago, Feb. 29, that the first U.S. death was reported. By April 3, the Center for Disease Control counted 5,443 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19. At 239,279, the U.S. ranks first in the world in the number of confirmed cases, and this at a time when test kits still remain largely unavailable. The actual number of people who contract the virus, including those who remain asymptomatic, never will be known.
On the Financial Front: Bail out Main Street, NOT Wall Street!
Both parties of Big Business — the Democrats and Republicans — created the conditions for the rapid spread of this pandemic. They are using it to enrich their corporate sponsors, and will pass the costs of stabilizing their profit system onto the working class.
The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet is in essence a corporate bailout, with massive tax loopholes, forgivable loan terms, and provisions for increased deregulation and privatization. It features an unregulated $454 billion corporate slush fund to be administered by the Federal Reserve Board in conjunction with BlackRock, the financial corporation that bailed out Wall Street (not Main Street) during the 2007-2008 recession and that is destroying pension plans, jobs, and public services the world over.
Leaders of the twin parties of the bosses tied the corporate bailout to the direct payments to workers and the unemployed with the full knowledge that the stimulus package would promote massive corporate consolidation and would further restructure the economy in favor of Wall Street and Big Business.
There also was agreement to exclude the 22 million non-citizens from the payments and protections in the package. In fact, it is estimated that 140 million people living in or close to poverty will not get close to adequate funding to weather the pandemic. Their lives are at risk.
The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet, however, is just the tip of the bailout iceberg. The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, quickly allocated no less than $4.2 trillion to bail out the banks and investors, already flush with cash reserves from near-zero interest rates and the Trump tax cut. The Fed has promised to do more if needed and for as long as necessary.
Meanwhile, a record 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment the last week of March. The real number of unemployed is actually much higher. Economists predict that the unemployment rate could shoot up to 30% in the coming months.
We know already to whom the two parties of the bosses will turn to bear the brunt of keeping capitalism intact unless we wage a united fightback in coordination with the unions and organizations of the oppressed communities. The working class still is reeling from the 2008 bailout. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the mantra will be that there are no funds to pay for essential social services, education, healthcare, and other public benefits. Employer-provided healthcare benefits, in particular, will be eliminated or the cost thrust onto workers since the insurance industry already has projected a 40% increase in rates. Wages, let alone wage increases and pension benefits, will be on the chopping block, too.
On the Political Front: A Bankrupt Two-Party System
Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, finance capital is working overtime to block the rising movements for environmental justice, health care as a human right (Medicare for All), a living wage for all, full labor and civil rights, and equality.
Joe Biden, a candidate beholden to Wall Street, is on the verge of being anointed the party’s presidential nominee, after a concerted effort by the party leadership to smash the progressive challenge from within its ranks. At a time when the bankruptcy of the current heathcare system has been exposed for all to see, Biden announced that if elected president, he would veto any Medicare for All bill that came to his desk!
It is likely that the Democratic National Committee will cancel the July Milwaukee convention and declare Biden its nominee, sharpening the political crisis and improving vastly the chances of Trump’s re-election.
Instead of promoting peace and international solidarity to fight COVID-19, the twin parties of war have increased sanctions on countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, causing further hardship and death to innocent civilians. In yet another desperate move, the Trump administration, without a word of protest from the Democrats, has raised bogus charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in its determined effort to foster regime change.
“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Organizing Meeting
In the face of a massive corporate assault that has been heightened by the pandemic, workers are fighting back; in fact, they are fighting for their very lives. The resurgent, fighting spirit on the shop floors and in workplaces across the country of the past two years is being expressed in nationwide wildcat strikes and other job actions by workers demanding protective gear and safe working conditions denied them by unscrupulous employers.
The list of wildcat strikes is growing by the day. Those involved include Instacart, Amazon and Whole Food workers across the country; nurses in Watsonville, Calif.; sanitation workers in Pittsburgh; ironworkers in Maine’s shipyards; bus drivers in Detroit; Fiat-Chrysler workers in Warren, Mich.; McDonalds workers in Illinois; grocery-store workers in McAllen, Texas; and poultry workers in Georgia. The list goes on.
In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on evictions and gentrification, police brutality, and mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately). In Chicago, tenants unable to pay their rent came together to organize a rent strike.
In Baltimore, a city where 30% of households live on an income of less than $25,000 a year, residents unable to pay their water bills are fighting back. Home owners are particularly outraged by the fact that major corporations and new developments in gentrified sections of the city have not been made to pay their water utility bills for years, while hundreds of homes were taken from low-income people for owing the city taxes or utility bills, thereby pushing Black and working class families out of the city to facilitate gentrification.
The fight in defense of undocumented immigrants and prisoners’ rights also has stepped up. Appeals and actions, framed in both health and political terms, are growing to demand the closure of the immigrant detention centers and the release of all detainees, as well the release of prisoners from the over-crowded jails.
The current pandemic shows no sign of letting up any time soon in the United States, so given the restrictions on face-to-face conferences, our usual ways of building opposition and seeking justice will have to continue electronically at this time. We cannot take a break from promoting the desperately needed effort to jettison the two old parties of Big Business on our way to building a just society.
In early March, the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party, and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) issued a call for a national conference to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System.” The conference is slated to take place in Baltimore on July 31 to August 2, 2020. [See Upated Conference Appeal in this issue.]
To prepare this conference (which may have to be held via webinar or zoom), the three sponsoring organizations will be holding an expanded Baltimore Conference Organizing Meeting on April 25, 2020.
If you are interested in participating in this Organizing Meeting to help us promote the political orientation and aims of the Baltimore conference as outlined in the attached call to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System,” please contact us as soon as possible at the email address above or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our goal is to bring together unionists and community activists who support the Baltimore Conference Call and who are willing to join us in organizing a united fightback in our workplaces and communities and in projecting that fightback into the political arena by laying the groundwork for an independent working-class party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed.
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6) APPEAL – National Conference: “Breaking the Grip of the Two-Party System”
July 31 to August 2, 2020
(or electronically if the situation requires it)
Sponsored by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP), and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)
Today, as the COVID-19 pandemic rages across the United States, a resurgent, fighting spirit has flared up among frontline workers deprived of protective gear and measures essential to ensure their safety and that of their families and broader communities. Their daily struggle has amplified the resistance of other workers — teachers, autoworkers, and others — who over the past few years have been fighting to take back their unions and fend off the bosses’ assault on their rights, wages, benefits, and working conditions. In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on police brutality, mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately), gentrification and evictions, environmental injustice, and attacks on immigrants. In many cases, these movements overlap and support each other.
As an expression of this urge to fight back, the presidential campaign of Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-described “democratic socialist,” gained widespread support. We recognize that this support for Sanders represented a massive and positive desire for fundamental change. Having said that we also recognize that Sanders has been running as a candidate in the Democratic Party, which is rightfully called the “graveyard of social movements.” He also has affirmed to this day that he will campaign for a Democratic Party victory — even with Joseph Biden, the corporate-sponsored frontrunner opposed to Sanders’ platform, anointed by the party leadership.
With inequality skyrocketing, healthcare costs and student debt mounting, climate change roiling the planet, democratic and civil rights (especially voting rights) under increased assault, wages and benefits evaporating, as well as gentrification and the lack of affordable housing on the rise, a majority in the United States (57%) called for a new independent political party. (Gallup Headlines, July 19, 2019)
Now the crisis confronting the working class and communities of the oppressed will deepen under the impact of the economic and social shutdown that has been imposed to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. How will working people pay the accumulated debts from unpaid rent, mortgages and other loans, as well as costly utilities? Will we be confronted with the unacceptable choice of paying astronomical increases in healthcare insurance or losing coverage? We know full well that it is the working class and communities of the oppressed who will bear the brunt of the corporate bailout – disguised as a stimulus package – as Democratic and Republican politicians will declare that there are no more public funds available and as bosses maneuver to break union contracts and coerce the rollback of wages and benefits.
Unfortunately, the leadership of unions and of many organizations representing oppressed nationalities remain to this day tied at the hip to the Democratic Party — a party that implements the permanent war agenda of global capitalism. This relationship is the number one obstacle to building working-class power and advancing the interests of the working class and all oppressed people.
A bolder worker fightback is essential.
New Openings for Independent Working Class Politics
More than 700 leading labor and community activists have endorsed a Statement of Purpose — at the initiative of Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) — that calls for running independent labor-community candidates at the local and state level, as a step in the effort to build a new independent mass labor-based political party.
These candidates — mandated by local labor-community coalitions — are not limited to electoral politics; they must be fighting for the issues contained in their fightback platforms. This will help to cement the alliance between labor and the oppressed communities.
An important step has been taken to promote this orientation, with the convening of the “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” regional conference on December 7, 2019, in Cleveland, OH, sponsored by the Labor Education and Arts Project (LEAP), in cooperation with the LFN and LCIP.
In keeping with these developments, the LFN, the Ujima People’s Progress Party (a Black workers-led party based in Baltimore), and LCIP are convening a national conference for independent working class politics.
Such a national conference, of course, needs to incorporate the fight for independent Black working-class political action. Nnamdi Lumumba, convener of the Ujima People’s Progress Party, expressed well the articulation of the struggle for independent Black working-class politics and for a Labor-based party at the December “Break the Grip” conference in Cleveland, stating:
“We need to organize people around their own class interests and their own interests as nationally oppressed people. Helping to break the active or even passive support to the two capitalist, imperialist and white supremacist parties has been a fundamental goal of our efforts as the Ujima People’s Progress Party, as we seek to build a Black workers-led electoral party.
“While we support a national labor party that recognizes both the shared and independent struggles of oppressed and exploited workers on the job and in their communities, we affirm that nationally oppressed people have to center the discussion and self-organization around their own specific oppression. … Having said that, we need to create a mass-based working-class party that says capitalism does not serve you, imperialism does not serve you, and racism does not serve you.”
If you agree, please endorse this call by filling out the coupon below. Let us know if you would like to build a coalition in your city with the aim of running independent labor-community candidates at the local level and advancing the struggle to build a new mass working-class party rooted in the unions and communities of the oppressed..
Website: lcipcampaign.org — email: email@example.com
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Baltimore 2020 Endorsement Coupon
[ ] I endorse this conference.
[ ] Our organization endorses this conference. [ ] Enclosed is a contribution of $ ____ to defray costs (check payable to LFN).
[ ] I/We would like to build a coalition in our city with the aim of running independent labor-community candidates and advancing the effort to build a new mass working-class party.
UNION / ORG (for id. only)
Return to LFN, P.O. Box 3101, Oakland, CA 94609 — or to email address above and to firstname.lastname@example.org
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