What a Socialist Response to COVID-19 Would Look Like

Excerpted from Alarm Manifesto of OCRFI

PRESENTATION

On February 27, when there were only 15 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States, President Trump suggested that the virus would be seasonal. “It’s going to disappear,” Trump insisted. “One day, it’s like a miracle. It will disappear.” Almost nine months later, far from “disappearing,” the exponential growth of cases throughout the United States has reached over 11 million, and the death toll approaches a quarter million lives (248,027 on November 17. 2020) with almost one person dying every minute of every day.

“Researchers,” reported the New York Times (Nov. 17), “say the country is fast approaching what could be a tipping point — an outbreak so widespread that every American knows someone who has been infected.”

The human toll cannot be measured by infections and deaths alone. Unemployment means housing and food insecurity, education disrupted, and more.

Nine months since the advent of the pandemic coursing through the United States and the world, nursing homes and hospitals still confront shortages of basic protective gear (PPE-personal protective equipment), such as N95 masks, for their staff even though Congress allocated funding, albeit insufficient, at the end of March (CARES Act). This included $1 billion to the Pentagon to “prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus.” Yet, as Washington Post reporters Aaron Gregg and Yeganeh Torbati exposed on September 22, instead of building up “the country’s supplies of medical equipment,” these funds were “mostly funneled to defense contractors and used to make things such as jet engine parts, body armor, and dress uniforms.” The pernicious impact of capitalism knows no bounds.

“What measures appropriate to the situation [COVID-19 pandemic] would a government take if it were genuinely concerned to protect the health of the vast majority?”was the question posed by the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) on March 24 as the U.S. Congress poured more than $4.5 trillion into a corporate bailout and the Pentagon — and other capitalist countries did likewise. Below is the response, reprinted from the Alarm Manifesto adopted by the OCRFI international conference on November 10, 2020 [see conference presentation at the end of this posting]. — The Editors

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Text reprinted from the OCRFI’s Alarm Manifesto

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, medicines, etc. It would organize 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 organize 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 is 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 organize the distribution of the foodstuffs and basic subsistence products needed by the population.

Such a government would nationalize or renationalize 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 layoffs 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. In order to do 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 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, organized in the OCRFI and fighting for the reconstitution of the Fourth International, in each of our countries we declare ourselves in favor of forming such governments that will exclusively serve the interests of the vast majority, and we will support any step by the working-class organizations in this direction. We are in favour of governments that 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.”

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OCRFI World Conference Adopts Alarm Manifesto, Charts Road Ahead

On November 8, 9 and 10, 2020, the Third World Conference of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International (OCRFI) was held. Given the conditions imposed on workers by governments around the world in the name of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, this “Alarm Conference,” as it was named, had to be held by video-conference. More than 100 activists (and guests) from 35 countries participated. [1] The delegate from Turkey was hospitalized and therefore unable to attend.

These difficult technical conditions, however, did not prevent the activists present from discussing and making decisions during three separate five-hour plenary sessions. The discussions focused on the struggle for the reconstitution of the Fourth International at a time when on a world scale there is, on the one hand, a brutal offensive against the working class and oppressed peoples, and, on the other hand, working class mobilizations and revolutionary explosions and on every continent.

Conference delegates took a firm stance against any and all forms of “Social Pacts” with the bosses and the governments in their pay — that is, against all forms of “partnerships” that subordinate workers’ interests in the name of “unity” with the bosses and their paymasters.[2] Delegates called on the labor unions and working class organizations to break with the capitalists and their governments. Delegates also put forward the perspective of workers’ governments and the fight for socialism.

An Alarm Manifesto was discussed widely, amended, and adopted by the international conference. The Manifesto is addressed to “workers, youth, worker activists and all those who want to put an end to capitalist exploitation.” It can be obtained in multiple languages from all the organizations linked to the OCRFI.[3]

The Conference also discussed ways to make the OCRFI a true center for helping to build revolutionary organizations the world over and to improve the publication of its six-language theoretical magazine: The Internationale. [See covers of the theoretical magazine above.] The conference also voted to give its full support to the preparation of the World Conference Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers’ International, to be held in 2021.

Endnotes:

[1] Afghanistan, Algeria, Azania/South Africa, Bangladesh, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Burundi, Canada, China, France, Germany, Greece, Haiti, Hungary, India, Ivory Coast, Italy, Mexico, Morocco, Korea, Pakistan, Palestine, Peru, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Senegal, Serbia, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Zimbabwe.

[2] In France this “Social Pact” is known as the “Sacred Union” between the workers and the capitalists and politicians in their pay. “Sacred Union” harkens back to outset of World War I, when the working class parties and unions initially opposed giving support to the war efforts and credits, but were co-opted by the powers-that-be into supporting the war in the name of “national unity” — or “Sacred Union” — to defeat the Germans.

[3] In the United States, this is Socialist Organizer.

Meeting of the OCRFI International Committee in November 2018
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