By the Communist Workers League
Why a transitional program specifically for the COVID-19 crisis?
Normally a socialist program is a more or less general and permanent outline of how an organization aims at initiating a revolutionary struggle to overturn capitalism and construct a socialist state with the proletariat and oppressed nations, using nationalized property and planning, controlling production and hence society.
This pandemic has created a unique situation. This virus, unlike a war or economic crisis, is a “force of nature” creating an enormous social and economic crisis and has sparked a deepening class division.
It may be as the Trump regime asserts that very soon a vaccine or cure will be created, or that the virus will “magically disappear” in the summer sunshine. Perhaps so, but Marxists should refrain from believing in bourgeois fairy tales. This disease has already infected more than 8.5 million people, causing nearly 460,000 deaths worldwide, according to official figures, which are understated. It has killed more than 122,000 people in the U.S.
Economically, it has spawned a terrible crisis for our class, throwing 40 million out of work already, more than 20 per cent of the workforce, which can only be compared to the Great Depression. This situation has been alleviated temporarily for some in our class because of one time payment and the supplement to unemployment are receiving until the end of July, but rent and mortgage non-payments are already skyrocketing, health insurance has been cut off for millions, and millions are facing hunger while tons of vegetables and milk are buried and farm animals are euthanized. This has all the hallmarks of spawning a pre-revolutionary situation, along with intensifying the danger from Trump’s fascist base.
Yet Wall Street seems strangely unaffected. After an initial panic in March, equity prices have stabilized. The Federal Reserve Bank has poured trillions into their coffers to buoy them. But with much of production paralyzed and profits melting away, they know that bankruptcy and ruin are on the horizon. That is why they and their minions from both parties more or less back Trump’s “reopen the economy” campaign.
At the same time, public health agencies that are tasked to create and direct policies to minimize the effects of this pandemic, the NIH, the FDA, and particularly the CDC are being pushed aside and muzzled. The production process for PPEs and medical equipment has been ravaged by corporate greed and corruption, exacting a terrible toll on health care workers.
Yes, left organizations have written many articles, held online forums and supported demonstrations about this. Yet not to be found in a minimal scan of socialist outlets is a revolutionary socialist program tailored to meet this crisis. While predicting the future is difficult, if this crisis deepens to the point that the capitalist system can no longer exert its control over the situation, then the left will need such a transitional program to exert direction and leadership in the struggle:
- For a Peoples Takeover of all coronavirus-related “essential industries”
- Hospitals and clinics
- Drug companies
- Mass transportation
- Food industry
- Nursing home industry
During the gas price crisis of the 1970’s, a petition campaign in Detroit demanded converting the oil industry to public property. Currently, Trump and Wall Street deemed some industries to be “essential”, forcing workers to continue working in unsafe conditions or face the loss of their jobs. This crisis should not be used to enrich the owners of hospitals, nursing homes, the food industry, etc., or the banks that stand behind them. These should rightfully belong to the people and be run for the benefit of the people.
- Place public health agencies (CDC, FDA, etc.) under one fully funded organization independent of any branch of government, directed solely by scientifically certified public health officials.
Newsweek recently published a study that a two weeks earlier lockdown in the U.S. would have saved 54,000 lives and 960,000 cases. After a phone call from the Chinese Health Ministry, the head of the CDC Dr. Redfield notified the Trump regime of the virus and its dangers. He was ignored. More warnings from the CDC and other health agencies were dismissed until the state lockdowns were finally sanctioned in mid-March.
Data on testing, fatalities and other aspects from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were misrepresented or suppressed. CDC written mandates for corporations to follow in dealing with this virus were changed from mandatory to voluntary. A recent CDC guideline document for companies was shelved.
The early days of the virus outbreak did see several CDC officials issue stark warnings, only to disappear from public view. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, accurately forecast on 25 February that the virus was not contained and would grow into a pandemic.
Trump created a Pence-headed COVID task force to circumvent the CDC.
The diminished role of the CDC is obvious to its former leaders. “There’s no question the CDC has been sidelined,” said Tom Frieden, CDC director during Barack Obama’s presidency. (The Guardian, May 14)
This “umbrella” health organization, which now Trump controls through the Health and Human Service agency, must be independent of capitalist government control and managed by its science workers.
- All production of medical material, including PPEs, vaccines, drugs, ventilators, etc. must be directed solely by the national public health organization. All research and all approvals would be conducted by this organization
The only word that can accurately describe this capitalist production system is “scandalous”. States have been forced to up payouts to corporations because of a Trump imposed “bidding war”, endangering thousands of workers and patients.
Trump created an “Operation Warp Speed” vaccine task force, and appointed biotech venture capitalist Moncef Slaoui as its head. He agreed to a $1 pay rate so he would not have to report any conflicts of interest that are bound to occur.
- No corporate patents should be granted for any coronavirus treatments, including vaccines.
Patents are the method that corporations use to hide from their competitors the discoveries made by their research workers. This allows vast over-pricing of medications and vaccines, while impeding the cooperation among developers.
Pro-patent voices are now using the Covid-19 crisis to push the Coons-Tillis bill, asserting that broad patents on now-patent-ineligible subject matter are necessary to incentivize invention of anti-Covid-19 technologies, especially diagnostic tests. This ignores evidence that the biggest problems we face are global shortages of unpatented basic supplies like nasal swabs and a failure of federal government coordination, not a shortage of inventive activity. (The Guardian, May 20)
- Taxes on corporate profits must be used to fight this pandemic and to sustain a living wage to all the unemployed, including undocumented workers. All layoffs must be deemed temporary furloughs, with each worker entitled to return to their job when the pandemic is over. In addition to income guarantees people must be guaranteed security to their homes, clean water and food. A suspension of all evictions and foreclosures must continue through and past the pandemic along with a mortgage and rent cancellation. Small landlords should be financially protected while big banks and speculators should bear their own losses.
Workers are the producers of all current and accumulated wealth. They need and deserve a living wage during the totality of the pandemic and long afterwards, until full employment is achieved.
- In consultation with state and local public health agencies, the national health organization would formulate policy for masks, lockdowns, tracking, plant shutdowns and openings, etc. for each location. It would direct all health-related efforts related to this pandemic.
This national health organization would not only have authority in this crisis over state and local health agencies, but also over all other government agencies in health-related matters, including state governors and the military.
- The national public health organization would solely represent the U.S. in the World Health Organization (WHO). Fighting this and future pandemics requires an international perspective, international cooperation and international solidarity. Medical resources must be shared to benefit humanity and not be co-opted by the larger economies. United States military threats and attacks on other countries, including economic sanctions must be stopped.
Trump is cutting funding to and threatening to pull the U.S. out of the World Health Organization. This demand would negate those actions, and task the national health organization with participating in the global effort to protect the workers and oppressed nations from this deadly virus.
- The national public health organization should control all industries in all matters of health and safety, in cooperation with either the existing unions or workers committees, empowered to suspend production if testing, tracking, masking, social distancing and other health measures are not met. Special attention must be given to those in jails, prisons and immigrant detention centers. Mass release should be put into immediate effect.
Under Trump, OSHA has not challenged one company in its compliance with CDC COVID-19 policies. Not only would this demand make these policies mandatory in the workplace, it would enable the labor organizations and worker committees rather than factory owners control the virus-control measures.
- During required frequent testing at all workplaces, deemed “essential” or not, if even one case is detected at a workplace, any worker may return home to self-quarantine and still receive full pay.
If a single COVID-19 case is detected at a workplace, every worker must have the right to self-quarantine to protect her or his family, the same right that government officials have exercised, without loss of income.
- All tests and treatments, including vaccinations, will be free and freely shared with the entire world. Workers compelled to work in “essential” industries must have priority for well tested vaccines and treatments. This is a stopgap measure. The pandemic has dramatized the need for massive investment in public health and free national health care, especially in communities of color who have suffered a disproportionate number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus.
Any discoveries by the science research workers belong to our whole class, not the property of the capitalist class.