March 17, 2020
The International League of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS) calls on its affiliates worldwide to address the urgent health crisis caused by the corona virus COVID-19. There are now over 167,000 cases from 150 countries and territories with tragically more than 6,000 deaths as of 16 March 2020.
The pandemic further exposes capitalism’s capacity to serve the people.
Most vulnerable to the virus are working masses who have low wages or income and poor access to health care and medical facilities. National health care systems. like those in Europe, were dismantled and privatised under a neoliberal regime and this has aggravated the rapid growth of the health crisis to its current proportions. Along with the monopoly of Big Pharma transnationals for private profit, privatised health systems are sorely lacking in large-scale preventive campaigns like testing, tracing, containment and curative services. Public confidence in current health systems is fast eroding.
Authorities in many capitalist countries are desperately seeking to stimulate their failing economies in the wake of the corona crisis and the economic crisis and are trying to pump billions of dollars into their countries’ economy in a desperate attempt to prevent disaster.
Of course the task is even harder for the capitalist states because of their huge debts and budget deficits, and because they have driven interest rates down to some of the lowest in history but which is still leaving their economy in crisis.
The pandemic and the economic crisis in it’s wake, as recognised widely, has been badly managed because of the ideological strait jackets of neoliberalism, on the capitalist authorities in many countries, but also because the “austerity” of neo liberalism over 40 years plus has led to cuts in available health services and other services for the people which are required to solve the current health crisis.
While individual responsibilities like washing hands and social distancing may help, it is totally inadequate in handling large-scale threats. Many countries, like the U.S., depend too much on secondary and tertiary health care and not on primary preventive health care. The United Nations and the World Health Organisation took a long time addressing the international concern a full two months since the outbreak and is now busy raising money for its Solidarity Response Fund. With the world monopoly capitalist system in crisis, resources are even more strained. Workers are suffering job losses and livelihood dislocations.
Desperate to contain the virus, some governments have resorted to lockdowns and reliance on military action instead of medical attention. The month-long lockdown enforced by the Philippine government under Pres. Duterte is practically martial law. Flexible work arrangements are being imposed, mass gatherings and other civil rights are being curtailed.
The ILPS demands that the affected working people should have guaranteed income and free access to testing and treatment. Governments should prioritize vulnerable communities. Those in power should be held accountable for the health crisis. Although social distancing is a way to manage the epidemic, it should not be used to destroy social solidarity and political organizing and action. The people must unite and exercise their collective action for health care. Assert public health against corporate greed and imperialist policies.
Only socialist ownership by the working people of production and wealth, and only the community control of the health and other services for the people, by removal of production and services for profit, can resolve this and other problems created by capitalism.