Imperialism and major world capitalists share the responsibility for both the economic and the public healthcare crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

By Asdrúbal Barboza

They are responsible for the imbalances in nature as they prioritized the huge profits of their companies at the cost of polluting the world and degrading the planet; furthermore, they are the ones who have not invested in public healthcare to safe-guard human lives because they prioritized  the investments in more lucrative areas, carrying out privatizations that commodified healthcare and benefited private healthcare centers.

The situation of public healthcare: low-quality and overwhelmed – has already been reported. WHO (World Health Organization) spokespersons have warned about powerful viral infections and about the need for funding in research and public healthcare since May 2018 but were fully ignored by imperialist countries’ administrations. Now there is a situation of collapse and congestion.

Therefore, the causes of the crisis are not the “natural factors”, but the result of capitalist polices that reduced these services.

The same rulers that brought us to his political catastrophe are the same ones to resort to mass unemployment, hunger and the overexploitation of the working class.

They increase state repression and authoritarianism to ensure the implementation of these measures, curbing hard-won democratic rights by the working class.

They were already resorting to increased repression before due to the international capitalist economic crisis to contain and repel the rise of the working class struggle. Under the context of coronavirus crisis, they advance in developing preventive mechanisms for new uprisings.


Dictatorships hide information and silent oppositionists

When taking drastic and draconian measures, China apparently slowed the coronavirus at high social cost and many lives. This result made governments in other countries talk about the need for more authoritarian regimes to control crisis situations.

What is hidden is that the Chinese government censored any news about the coronavirus for weeks, allowing its spread through the country while punishing doctors and journalists that gave alarm. That is not new. In 2003, Chinese authorities took four months to warn about SARS outbreak. Doctor Li Wenliang death, one of the first to identify the existence of the pandemic, brought about a wave of people’s revolt and forced the dictatorship to announce the opening of an investigation, which obviously will go nowhere.

They took advantage of the virus outbreak to increase measures to curb civil liberties, blocked combinations of keywords in the internet that included criticisms on president Xi Jinping and polices related to the virus; forced internet platforms to provide information of who criticized the government, to facilitate the repression on the dissent; increased control over the movement of people, installing applications on mobile phones and monitoring through facial recognition technology.

The Iran government increased repression against opponents including executions of political prisoners and supposed juvenile criminals, flogging, amputations and death by stoning. The dictatorship has been taken advantage of the need to increase social control to accomplish a record number of executions: 97 people in one month. Besides that, journalists, bloggers, HR activists and lawyers were arrested, tortured and subjected to unfair trials.

Dictatorships in China, Iran, Venezuela and Nicaragua take advantage of fighting the pandemic to increase repression on all their opponents.


Freedom for bosses, dictatorship for workers

The same is valid for so-called “democratic” States. They talk about fighting back the pandemic in order to increase repression against the working class and attack the democratic achievements of our class. We can’t fool ourselves.

The shelter-in-place decree affects the working class right to come and go. The same rulers who are responsible for the crisis are the same ones who decide, in an authoritarian, despotic and arbitrary way, who can get around and who can’t, in what conditions, legitimizing repression against the vulnerable sectors, waging the fake speech of individual irresponsibility. How dare they talk about irresponsibility when the bourgeoisie supports governments like Bolsonaro and Trump for whom human lives are disposable?

They condemn workers to virus spread forcing them to go work in plants, even non-essential ones, while the bourgeoisie are protected in their homes. They forbid transit workers’ strikes exposing their own inability in combating the pandemic

At the same time, they impose draconian restrictions on the right to come and go for those they consider not essential, through strict control by repressive apparatuses, many times in houses without sanitation or water.


Apprentices of dictator seize the occasion

Hungarian president Viktor Orban is an example of authoritarian bourgeois government that took advantage of the pandemic to extend his powers. On March 30 the parliament led by his nationalist Fidesz party passed a bill that allow him to rule by decree indefinitely, the “Law to Fight the Coronavirus” which install the state of emergency in the country.

Órban can suspend parliamentary sessions and elections; arrest for 8 years who disrespect the quarantine rules, and for 5 years who spread information considered incorrect by the government. Orban became known in 2015 for harsh anti-immigration policies calling Syrian refugees “Muslim invaders”. Currently he blames the Iranian students for the dissemination of the pathogen in Hungary.

In Slovakia the government plans to approve a law that allows State institutions to access data from telecom operators to track cell phones, claiming that this would ensure that people remain insolated while in quarantine.

In Bulgaria a law of emergency is under debate which will introduce penalties like arrest for spread of fake information about infectious diseases. The point is, however, that the government itself will decide if the news is true or not.

In Brazil president Bolsonaro, an Órban admirer, work to create an environment for a self-coup as his political isolation increases. He often threatens to disrupt the democratic regime in his conflict with the governors and builds for a situation of “chaos” stating that “what happened in Chile will be an easy ride compared to what may happen in Brazil” as the country may “get out of the democratic normality that you defend so muchin case of looting in poor neighborhoods.


The reformists: accomplices and lackeys of their governments and imperialism

In Mexico, Lopes Obrador is no better than Bolsonaro. He called the Mexicans to hug themselves, minimizing the pandemic effects. In Argentina, the parliament was closed, leaving all powers to Fernández. In El Salvador, Nayib Bukele resorted to some measures to postpone the worst of the crisis. He’s acting like a progressive, just to conceal his decision in February to order military forces to occupy the parliament in order to pass his political and economical plans, like the “anti-gang” plan, which strengthen the gangs, while incriminates Salvadoran Youth and  poor people.

In Argentina, during the election period, the government presented itself as progressive compared to reactionary Macri. Nevertheless, the same government used police forces to restrain and arrest the people who did not obey social isolation in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. Authority abuse, physical aggression and humiliation are common acts from the police forces. Meanwhile, the legal system is on “vacation”, which means, the workers cannot denounce arbitrary dismissals, femicides, corporation’s abuses and police brutality.

It’s the same in Paraguay where agents from the squad known as “Linx Group” persecute and harm young poor people in the suburbs of Asunción. They also arrest and harm the elderly.[1]

The Spanish State’s government, the PSOE-Unidas party alliance, declared state of emergency only after 5,500 people died. Workers are having their rights curbed like the right to protest for shutting-down non-essential industrial premises or proper safety in essential workplaces. Many workers are being forced to go to work, even though they work for non-essential industries. Those who stay at home will have to work these missed working hours whenever suits the employer. The working conditions have been deregulated under major labor federations’ (CCOO and UGT) consent.

The socialist party administration in Portugal, supported by the Left Bloc and the Portuguese communist party and their union’s leaders issued the “State of Emergency Declaration” strongly striking bourgeois democracy civil liberties. The decree restricts the right to go on strike, to assemble and peacefully demonstrate as it forbids gatherings larger than 5 people. It also imposes on the workers to accept workplace change and less working hours. The right to “move and stay in any part of the country” and the right to have unions are suspended as far as “it might delay the enforcement of any rule of this decree”. Furthermore, it forbids “any act of resistance – active or passive – exclusively targeting the legitimate orders given by the competent public authority” enlarging series of actions that might be classified as civil disobedience. The constitutional “right to resist” is legal since the Carnation Revolution.

As in other times in history, reformists across the world bow down before the bosses under national unity’s slogans over workers’ class interests and rights. For the same goals, parliamentary reformists and bureaucratic union leaders work as a team, and support the government on those measures.


For the bourgeoisie, workers are not entitled for human rights

Lenin wrote that the bourgeois democracy is the best kind of republican regime, always pointing out that it’s a way to disguise its class dictatorship. In times of crisis or not, the repressive apparatuses have the main goal of keeping the working class under control.

Through struggle, our class has conquered some rights that are instrumental for our struggles and organization, like free speech and the right to assemble. At any chance, the bourgeoisie restrict or remove those rights. That’s why we have to report any violation and defend our achievements.

The bourgeois criteria for public security means to decree arrest for some people don’t move while banning strikes and demonstrations, and punishing every worker trying to mobilize. According to Amnesty International, the quarantine should be required in a “respectful and safe way”.


In defense of workers’ democracy and self-organization

The pandemic is expected to deepen in a scale we don’t know yet. The governments around the world plan to combat the pandemic striking working class rights. The same decrees above are meant to limit working class ability to fight back in an organized way instead of attacking the pandemic.

That’s why workers should oppose any rights’ violations and be aware of any measure the governments apply. We should mobilize against any government’s declaration of state of emergency or state of siege or anything like that.

State of emergency open a precedent to take our fundamental rights away and reinforce authoritarianism. How can we trust those governments that took us to this catastrophic scenario? We are here only because of their greed for profits and money.

We don’t need authoritarian measures to defeat the coronavirus, we don’t need dictatorships to fight back pandemics. State of Emergency isn’t a way to assure the quarantine period, it’s just how the company’s profits are assured. This State of Emergency restricts our right to resist and establishes abuse of power from authorities in regular situations.

We should refuse any limit to workers right to assemble and struggle. We need workers’ democracy and self-organization, we need to trust in our strength and our working-class brothers and sisters.

We are the workers who are cleaning the streets, fighting in hospitals to save lives, working in factories to produce essential goods, assuring goods and people’s circulation. We have the ability to decide upon what’s needed or not to defeat the pandemic, to prevent shortages, to stop the speculation of goods, to regulate social isolation. It is not the case for the ones responsible for this catastrophe to decide upon.

In Sao Paulo poor neighborhoods and slums, the workers are distributing food, medicine and taking care of the elderly.

The bosses are not concerned about the workers and poor people’s lives. That’s why we have to organize ourselves in our neighborhoods, in our communities, in the factories and workplaces so we can organize the true battle against coronavirus. The only way to organize our society is through workers’ and people’s councils. That’s the only way to avoid the social crisis that threatens the lives of millions of people.