Coronavirus #3: Open-up Movement a Death March for Workers and the OppressedJohn Beacham
May 22, 2020
Unite to Halt Coronavirus Transmission; Massive Economic Collapse; No Public Health System Equals Genocide: Fund Full Relief and Recovery Now!; Rebellion Against System Equals Life; General Strike?; Build Socialism
We cannot predict the future, but we must all be aware that we are potentially on the precipice of an economic collapse and/or pandemic-related economic and political social crisis—especially for working and oppressed people—unlike anything experienced in the modern history of humanity. We must prepare and act accordingly.
We will win, but must prepare for things to get worse
At the precise time when safety, sanity and security is needed the most, the leaders of this country cannot or will not keep people safe. They even refuse to or are unable to keep the white house safe!
Roughly 29 percent of Covid-19 deaths are in the United States and rising. Over 32 percent of cases are in the United States even though the main outbreaks began on the other side of the planet. Yet, the richest country in the history of the world makes up only 4 percent of the world’s population.
Incredibly, but not unpredictably, there is still no national plan to combat the worst pandemic in a century. Officially, over 96,000 people are dead. That is most certainly an undercount. Some studies put U.S. deaths at double the official number!
38.5 million people are collecting unemployment. Businesses large and small are starting to shutter.
Not only do they have no plan for the economic and social turmoil just beginning, it’s a great possibility that the capitalist system will fail or be unable to meet the upcoming challenges. This failure could lead to rebellions and a revolutionary opportunity—an opportunity that may be our only hope to build the foundations of the society that is needed.
Survival is in the forefront, but fighting back and building Socialism are absolute priorities, especially for all of us who are and are becoming politically active.
What We Have I: Viral liberty?
The virus is nowhere near under control; members of the sham virus task force are under quarantine; and congress is still “working” remotely.
Despite all this—with armed white supremacists as the advanced guard—states are “opening” up, embracing greater death and knowingly endangering an untold number of workers. In Georgia, Florida and Arizona and probably more states, governments are manipulating case and death data, lying, to make the case for opening up.
Badly needed emergency economic relief for workers and even small businesses in the amount that is really needed is not materializing.
Without a real public health system--which every society must have--and without a public health sensibility, vast parts of the population have been unable or unwilling to act correctly in relation to their own safety and safety of the public. A very dangerous situation.
A wholly mistaken and dangerous media-induced attitude of getting back to normal is spreading like an epidemic through the population. As judges strike down lockdowns, many thousands of people head out to bars and beyond, unmasked and un-social distanced, greatly aiding the transmission of this dangerous virus.
Understandably, people want this to be over, but wishing it so will not make that happen.
Let’s be frank. We don’t currently have a society that is capable of economic, political, social and cultural cooperation.
Most people are trying to do the right thing. But a society—to really be a society—needs much greater cohesion. The pandemic and its worsening by this capitalist, racist, imperialist society is exactly why Socialism—a better society based on cooperation, equality and justice—is rightly and organically gaining in popularity.
Only through militant general strike-like actions and great sacrifice will we be able to establish the kind of collective power that can be seen in the nurses standing up to the white supremacists, workers walking off the job and threatening to walk off the job to demand better working conditions and the public shaming that forced the grocery bosses to provide hazard pay.
False consciousness I: Things are not fine
Completely detached from reality, the idea that we are over the first wave of the virus has become an agreed upon talking point. Now, we are being told, outrageously, that an expected rise in cases after opening up is a “second” wave.
The idea that we are doing well or about to be fine in the face of the pandemic continues to be a dangerous falsehood, continues to disarm the population and continues to further a genocide by default.
A pandemic is no time to turn easily observable data upside down. We are not doing well. We are still on the first wave of the virus. The battle has just begun.
For many in the capitalist establishment the call to open up—to get back to “normal”—is just an excuse to not have to pay for a real survival and recovery program for workers, the poor and the rest of the population—an excuse not to pay the costs of research, treatment, social distancing, coordinated lockdowns and quarantine.
Besides, thinking the capitalist economy—which doesn’t even take care of us all in the best of times—will magically heal itself during the ravages of disease and an overnight economic catastrophe necessitating trillions of dollars in bailouts, that’s ludicrous.
No amount of opening up is likely to save small businesses or stabilize the economy. The middle class and american exceptionalist idea that rugged individuals can use the market to solve this thing is a grand delusion propagated by the billionaires so that they can justify their ownership and power.
But the bosses are the biggest gang of criminals in history!
As Jeff Bezos’ fortune rockets toward a trillion dollars, Amazon plans to halt hazard pay for workers. Other billion-dollar companies plan to do the same.
Billionaire Elon Musk is breaking the law to open his factory in California.
The meat packing bosses got Trump to declare their dangerous factories essential businesses.
All across the country, states are making it as hard as possible for people to claim unemployment.
The U.S. government is working day and night in the interest of the pharmaceutical industry to monopolize a vaccine.
The ruling class is profit before your life every hour of the day an everyday of the week.
What we have II: Workers sacrificed to Wall Street
Black and Latino and poor people, the elderly, prisoners, immigrants, so-called essential workers and the vulnerable—they are being sacrificed. Tens of millions of people have lost their jobs. We are on the verge of tens of millions of people losing their homes and apartments. This means the banks are teetering on collapse as a result of people not being able to pay their mortgage or rent.
We are potentially on the precipice of an economic collapse unlike anything experienced in the history of humanity. Capitalism will require the mother of all bailouts to survive. The government may or may not send another round of rent checks—to some people—in the mail or by direct deposit.
The democrats’ spending bills, loaded with bailouts and gifts for the wealthy with some crumbs for workers, will likely not be enough to avert catastrophe and the republicans are talking—with great jingoism—of blocking or greatly decreasing any benefits for workers and the poor in any new spending bill.
Fascists and white supremacists are positioned to grow in numbers and influence from the pandemic. Fascist calls to let the vulnerable and non-white parts of the population die coincide with the billionaires intrinsic need to maintain their stranglehold over the country’s finances. The ruling class is poised to capitalize on the pandemic to loosen regulations, increase state power and grow their bank accounts. Some elite politicians are even scheming to use the pandemic to double-down on eliminating the already tattered social safety net.
For the foreseeable future, there’s no stopping the virus (a vaccine or treatment cannot be realistically expected in less than six months, a year or two [if that], especially without total global cooperation).
Unless we abolish the for-profit economic model, producing and distributing a vaccine to everyone on the planet is going to be the fight of all fights.
Many reactionaries in the United States and Europe will fight against making the vaccine free and mandatory based on felonious vaccine conspiracy theories. The reactionary leaders of the Open-up Movement will oppose free and mandatory vaccines, not because they reject vaccines necessarily, but because blunting the vaccine's availability will lead to the disproportionate deaths of the non-white, immigrants and the poor.
The capitalist class in the United States will seek to cash in on the virus and many in the ruling class will see a for-profit vaccine as a way to “cull” what to them is excess population—the growing percentage of the population that cannot be employed in a 21st Century tech economy.
Unleashing a racist campaign against China has many motivations. First and foremost, the Trump administration is trying to cover over its absolute failure. The campaign is also a gift to the Big Pharma. Scapegoating China is a way to weaken global cooperation in the race for vaccines and treatments.
Our one and only weapon against the pandemic right now is to do everything we can to halt its transmission. Period. Letting people die is unacceptable and dangerous, especially when we know so very little about the novel Coronavirus and its ability to mutate.
False consciousness II: China, Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela lead humanity; "Herd Immunity" is racism
The idea that a herd immunity can stall the virus is just that—an idea. An idea that has not been scientifically verified. An idea that is useful to those who believe that millions of people needlessly dying is somehow acceptable, necessary and ordained.
In places like China, Vietnam and South Korea they have gone to extraordinary lengths to greatly curtail the effect of the virus, but new outbreaks have and most likely will continue to happen, even there.
Vietnam borders China. Vietnam has had zero deaths. Zero deaths! "Herd Immunity" must be rejected as the death science it is.
Cuba just announced that is has had zero cases in the last seven days!
In Sweden—a country that has not locked down—they have almost as many deaths as China now. China’s population is 140 times larger than Sweden’s!
Sweden’s death rate is now the highest in Europe.
Germany, which has done better than most in Europe (but still has thousands more dead than China), is opening up. This is a dangerous gamble.
Is it a coincidence that Brazil, with its fascist leadership, has become an epicenter of the pandemic, while neighboring Venezuela has relatively few deaths? No, it is not a coincidence.
Opening up without great social coordination and cohesion is—without a doubt—the wrong way to go.
What we need
We need a fully funded public health system and the abolition of for-profit healthcare. We need universal healthcare.
If the country is headed for a disastrous opening up, we need full workplace protections enforced by empowered union members and workers, we need the extension of unemployment for two years to all regardless of status, we need all payments cancelled for two years and we need hazard and sick pay and so, so much more.
A global, humane lockdown and quarantine system—with well-controlled openings when virus containment makes it possible or social distancing is well organized—is necessary. We should demand money to hire social distancing helpers all across the country and coordinate social distancing strictly and peacefully.
For example, people could make online reservations for public parks. Social distance helpers (not the cops) would be on hand to coordinate, make sure everyone has masks, etc.
The primary duty of all socialists, revolutionaries and progressives is to join ranks to combat the virus and fight to force the government to pay for all pandemic related expenses, including monthly checks of at least $2,000 to everyone, housing as a right, greatly expanded non-profit oriented research, PPE for all, a massive paid volunteer program to coordinate a humane social distancing and quarantine that empowers people, like they have in China, on a block by block level and much, much more.
If we want people to stop dying without reason, if we want to effectively combat the pandemic, we have to rally around each other with love and militancy to carry out—in a hyper coordinated fashion—all the measures necessary to social distance, quarantine humanely, shut down whatever can be shut down and make sure that whatever parts of the economy and society we decide must or can remain open--that those workplaces and spaces are uber-safe. Uber-safe. Necessary jobs should be voluntary if possible and the requisite training and education should be provided for free.
In other words, we need a fully funded program to address the pandemic, people’s survival needs and a full recovery.
At this point, it seems inevitable that the United States will attempt to keep opening up. Reactionary forces are in motion and the democrats, like usual, have no interest in challenging even the most backwards elements of the system they uphold. Just look at how easily armed white supremacist terrorists shut down the Michigan legislature!
If we are to be honest, the collective response we need is unlikely to happen in the United States until people start to fight, fight on a much larger scale and fight hard. Class struggle, with the ruling class, racists and bigots on one side and the workers and oppressed people on the other side is sure to escalate, especially if things—and they most likely will—get worse in regards to the pandemic, the miserable handling of the pandemic and the teetering economy.
Many in congress, in the media, on Wall Street, the corporations and many small and medium size businesses will fight to open up or let the opening happen with only meek words of caution so that a vast and necessary social program that meets people’s needs will not become a reality. Of course, should a people’s bailout not happen, the crisis will most likely get worse anyway.
Again, whatever happens at the government level, we will have to fight.
How we fight
To a significant extent, how we answer the question of, “How can we fight?”, is not clear.
Mass action—which is normally required to make the U.S. government do the right thing—is extremely fraught. As of right now, a call for a mass demonstration is unlikely to materialize in an actual mass demonstration. Many will rightfully be fearful of coming out, etc.
Of course, spontaneous protests are happening and will continue to happen from the workplace where conditions are unsafe to the Black community where fighting back against lynching and racism has become even more necessary.
Spontaneous or in-emergency-response-to-government-actions largescale mass action remains a possibility—maybe even more so during a crisis like this.
But any mass demonstration—even one that is rigorously disciplined—will potentially help spread the disease. All you have to do is survey some of the pictures and videos of progressive protests and you will see many instances of potential disease spreading even when the organizers have obviously tried to do the right thing.
Right now, we are mostly online or in a retreat, assessment or preparation mode—out of necessity and because of the circumstances. However, this must change. The car protests are important, but not comparable in forcefulness to armed open-up protests.
In these troubled times, we continue to retain the one real power we always have. If we don’t work, nothing happens. The bosses lose their source of real power over us. We come into open conflict with the ruling class and the state.
Think about it. Why has Amazon retaliated so strongly against organizers? Why are they planning to strip employees of hazard pay during a pandemic even though Jeff Bezos’ wealth has skyrocketed over the last two months to the tune of $30 billion? Because they do not want workers, working-class leaders, to assert themselves and gain strength. They fear that we will assert our right to dictate working conditions and wages, our right to the wealth that our labor creates, or our right to live.
That’s right, the bosses are afraid we will assert our right to live—assert that our lives are more important than their economic system!
To effectively fight back in a time of pandemic, we need to think and act in terms of power. We need to break with the bosses. They are the enemy. We are safer without them. We are safer not working for them.
We must threaten to and withhold our labor wherever possible. The smaller workplace actions happening now, they need to build into waves of strikes, into general strikes. Only then can we force the government to do what is right. Only then can we call into question the entire system as a lynchpin to victory.
Does not the pandemic show clearly that the entire system must be called into question at this point in history, or else?
The time for waiting on congress and the white house to do the right thing has passed or is about to pass. The pandemic continues apace and the enormous amount of economic relief necessitated by the strain on the medical industries, the millions of people without work and the epidemic of small business closures on the horizon is almost unimaginable.
Fighting for rent cancellations and the like is very important—after all, what are people going to do on June 1—but we are facing a much deeper problem that requires bolder action and deeper solutions. Again, 38.5 million people are currently collecting unemployment!
If your working conditions are unsafe, if you are not being paid hazard pay, if you are being forced to work extra hours, etc. organize and shut it down. Your safety comes before profit and the only way to secure your safety is through collective action.
But you might ask … Do the conditions exist for a wave of strikes or general strikes to resonate amongst the population? Yes, the conditions exist. If not now, then when would they exist?
But you might say … People need jobs to survive. They are afraid of losing their jobs. An army of the unemployed is waiting for a job. They got us over the barrel of a gun.
In these conditions, will people really strike on the level needed to change the equation? That’s an important question we do not know the answer to, but it doesn’t change the fact that there is no other option. It doesn’t change the fact that workers are already striking and were already striking in larger numbers pre-pandemic.
Striking or strike like actions can lead to the greater unity and strength the U.S. working class needs to overcome this crisis.
What we can do right now
Without strikes or strike-like shut-downs or city-wide rebellions, millions of people will needlessly die and the capitalist rulers will sacrifice all of us on the bloody altars of Wall Street, the Big Banks, Big Tech, Big Pharms and Big Oil.
Activists, organizers and revolutionaries must and will find ways to forcefully promote worker’s rights so we can take the future of this country and the planet into our own hands through militant action, or else.
In particular, MASS ACTION encourages everyone to promote, as much as possible, the idea of more forceful labor action and general strikes. To turn the crisis into greater working-class power that can affect the outcomes for all of us, this is our best and maybe only option.
If you are thinking about taking action at your workplace and beyond and you want to touch base about how we can work together/help each other or if you have questions about the strategies proposed in this article (or anything else), e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or message us on facebook or text us at 773-885-3991.
In addition, this crisis proves—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that we need Socialism. We encourage you to take part, with MASS ACTION and so many others, in building the Socialist movement for workers and oppressed people’s power. The needs of the people and planet must trump the dictates of profit as soon as possible and we must be organizing for that eventuality now.
What’s a practical thing you can do right now, you say? You can take and share the MASS ACTION Socialism Survey so we can get a deeper understanding of how we can best help each other in the urgent struggle to defeat capitalism, racism and imperialism once and for all.
You can also sign the petition: Stop the Open-up Movement Now!
We will prevail, but in order to do so, we must fight. We need mass power to defeat the pandemic, save the planet, smash white supremacy and stop world war 3.