We live in an age of pandemics. We live in an age of environmental destruction, climate change and patriarchal violence against women. None of these are natural disasters – they all result from the way society and production is currently organised. The pandemic is one of many diseases emerging as a result of, late capitalism, including HIV, Avian Flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Ebola.
These new illnesses have all developed in a similar way and are linked to the processes of capitalist agriculture and environmental destruction which are also major contributors to climate change. The wanton destruction of nature by capital creates the perfect conditions for the emergence and spread of pandemics. The destruction of the tropical rain forests and the depletion of the oceans destroys the livelihoods of millions of poor people pushing them to desperation. The Amazon, the lungs of the world, is being cut down to make way for corporate livestock production. Capitalism drives the engine of environmental destruction and climate change. The COVID-19 virus and other viruses that emerge in this period are a product of a decaying economic system in its barbaric phase.
The pandemic is not just a global health crisis, but it drives economic and social crises which express the structural crisis of the entire system of social reproduction. The pandemic exposes the deep wells of inequality which exist between peoples and classes throughout the world. In the metropolitan capitalist countries it is the working class, people who live in poverty, and disabled people of all ages, who have borne the brunt of the virus. In the global south and in countries subjected to oppression and colonisation we have seen the pandemic threaten the lives of millions. In those countries medical systems have been hollowed out and destroyed by the neo-liberal structural adjustment programmes of the 1980s and 90s. The privatisation programmes demanded by Western governments have been a catastrophe for public health. More than 1 billion people have no access to proper sanitation or running water. We need to ensure that our politics recognises the impact of the virus in respect of imperialism, of class, race, gender and impairment related issues. Neo-liberal economic policies were then imposed wholesale across Europe and beyond, destroying the post-war welfare states, depriving public services of adequate funding and leaving health systems unfit to confront the pandemic.
Covid-19 shows us we need a complete transformation of the economy: sustainable, just and in the hands of the people. The problems humanity faces require systemic societal change. This economic system is broken and destroys the lives of millions. It cannot be made to work in their interests. It must be ended.
The priority is to do whatever is necessary to save life and stop the virus spreading. We need to call for a shift of human labour, effort and production into areas such as healthcare, health equipment and food that will aid the effort for our collective survival.
We believe that the response to the COVID-19 pandemic must adhere to these core principles:
(1) Protect lives. Protect lives through urgent, large-scale and informed investment in COVID-19 tests and tracing and life-saving medical supplies.
(2) Protect workers. Protect workers in essential occupations, including medical staff, with equipment, priority testing and distancing safeguards; ensure no one is forced to go out to do non-essential work; protect employment rights, jobs and income.
(3) Protect living needs. Protect access to food, shelter, a safe space to self-isolate, a liveable income and essential utilities for all.
(4) Protect all the people. We must ensure people who are at risk or have been deprived of their rights and needs are protected to safeguard their own and everyone’s lives; protect the ability of impoverished countries to feed and care for their people; protect global access to cheap vaccines and life-saving medicine when developed.
(5) Protect civil liberties. Protect society from the misuse or unnecessary prolongation of emergency powers introduced to address COVID-19.
(6) Protect from a recurrence. Protect from inequalities and precariousness; from underinvestment in healthcare and welfare; and from the regime of corporate patenting of vital medicines. Those exacerbate pandemics and risk devastating effects for the global poor and marginalised in the COVID-19 crisis.
(7) Protect Women. Women are the ones who sustained the most efforts to keep us all safe and the society running: their essential role must be recognised. No solidarity or mutual aid could exist without the crucial role of women. Despite that, they are mostly affected by precarious working conditions, in particular nurses, cashiers or cleaners. The situation of women migrants in the camps or also in the host countries is especially hard. Women should not pay the highest price for this crisis: we need a concrete plan focusing on the protection of all women (workers, unemployed, migrants), especially when victims of any form of violence (particularly domestic violence)
(8) Protect science and the scientific method and oppose the rise of fascist ideas linked to denial of science.
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