This marks the second May Day since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. In just over a year, barbarism has only entrenched itself further. Around the world, more than 140 million cases of COVID-19 and more than 3 million deaths have been officially recorded, but we know that the real toll is much higher. The pandemic, which occurred due to the reckless exploitation of natural resources motivated by capitalism’s thirst for profits, has created the largest health crisis of the century, aggravating preexisting economic and social crises. Less alarmist sources have dubbed it the worst global crisis since the end of World War II.
The global bourgeoisie is trying once more to push the cost of the crisis they created onto the working class and the populations of semi-colonial countries, particularly their most exploited and oppressed sectors, such as the Black working class, women, immigrants, and LGBTI people.
The cause that the Haymarket Square martyrs died for 135 years ago is more important now than ever. The working class is being hit not just by COVID-19 but also by the ensuing catastrophic effects on the global economy, leading to unemployment, hunger, and the impoverishment of an enormous of people. According to the UN, 255 million full time jobs were lost worldwide during 2020,1 which implies a huge spike in poverty. Last year, more than 880 million people worldwide experienced hunger. Meanwhile, a layer of the middle class is also on the path to ruin.
Nevertheless, a handful of capitalists have only gotten richer. According to the most recent edition of Forbes, the number of multimillionaires skyrocketed during the pandemic. 2,755 people have more than $1 billion, 30% more than last year. Shortly before the pandemic, Oxfam published a study claiming that 2,153 of the richest people have more wealth than 4.6 billion people (60% of the world population).2 Keeping that in mind, the base of the wealth pyramid has only grown. According to the UN’s criteria, one out of ten people worldwide lives in extreme poverty, living off of less than $1.9 per day.3 The World Bank estimates the the pandemic pushed 1.15 billion more people into extreme poverty in 2020. It is predicted that by the end of 2021, 1.5 billion more people will suffer from these conditions.
The rich are in a vastly better position to survive COVID-19 or avoid infection entirely. The poor have not only become poorer thanks to the pandemic, they are disproportionately among those hospitalized and killed by the disease.5 The working class is in a terrible situation: not only does it have to face the COVID-19 pandemic every day, but also the pandemic of hunger.
This situation cannot continue. We need to put a stop to this genocide!
Capitalism kills! Death to capitalism!
On behalf of the IWL-FI, we say that what is happening right now is a genocide in all senses of the word. The spokespeople for the bourgeoisie tell us that the pandemic “does not discriminate between social classes”. The virus obviously does no such thing, but the bourgeois governments do. We are facing the same storm, but we are not in the same boat. Where the rich can maintain social distancing without needing to rely on public transit, and given that they can access the best healthcare when they get sick, or even cut the line for vaccines through “vaccine tourism”, workers are forced to risk exposure in order to make a living. And when we get sick, so many of us die waiting for a hospital bed at institutions that are at the point of collapse.
The working class is bearing the full brunt of this crisis. It is the most affected demographic: it has no access to a working healthcare system, it is undernourished, living in precarious conditions, forced to risk contagion in order to earn a living, even if it risks its life to do so.
Since the end of 2020, effective vaccines have been created. But capitalism takes every scientific advance and forces it to work for profit instead of for human benefit. Thus, while imperialist countries hoard the majority of vaccine doses, poor countries receive a mere trickle. Imperialism today is clearly displayed by the fact that 60% of the vaccine doses created in 2021 are being held by countries comprising 16% of the world population. As millions get sick and die, the vaccine monopoly–guaranteed by the patent system–prevents many companies from manufacturing their own vaccines and thereby accelerating production.
For the capitalists, profits are more valuable than workers’ lives! That’s why we say that what is happening is a genocide, because capitalism is pushing the worst of the pandemic onto the marginalized, showering the masses with death.
But the effects of the pandemic are not an act of god. The economic, social, and health infrastructure problems existed before the pandemic. What the pandemic has done is merely accelerate the process, showing the full brutality of capitalism in living color: millions homeless, hungry, a dramatic spike in poverty, deaths from malnutrition and rising infant mortality.
Workers of the world unite!
Throughout the course of the pandemic, we have seen important mobilizations and resistance organized by our class. In 2020, the most important was the wave of antiracist protests that began in the US following the murder of George Floyd, and which later spread to other countries. Later, it was followed by pro-democracy movements in Belarus. In South America, protests started back up again in Chile. In March 2021, we participated in the high point of struggle against the pandemic and the collapse of the healthcare system in Paraguay, where a social uprising threatens the president and his government. Soon after, working class people began an anti-coup movement in Myanmar.
We need the broadest unity amongst our class to face the effects of the pandemic on the most oppressed and exploited sectors. We need to support general strikes for healthcare, socially-distanced protests, and the self-organization of every worksite and neighborhood from the bottom up. We need to take our safety and our health into our own hands. We will only win through self-organization and struggle.
This May 1st should foster this unity in order to promote a socialist program that can address the enormous needs of the moment.
- For the immediate breaking of vaccine patents to produce enough vaccines for everyone. This would break the monopoly held by a small number of corporations, and would allow countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea and others to mass produce vaccines and kickstart vaccinations around the world.
- In addition to ending intellectual property protections, we need to expropriate the pharmaceutical and biotech mega corporations, the entire vaccine production industry, in order for the production of medical supplies to be put fully under workers’ control. This is the only way to reorganize production to meet humanity’s needs instead of merely lining the pockets of a select few. It has been demonstrated that private ownership of the means of production has not only failed to maintain the minimal living conditions of the proletariat. The pandemic has taken this a step further: capitalism’s continued existence is opposed to the preservation of life on earth. What good is this profit-making machine if millions are dying at work? The working class’s revolutionary role has never before been so clearly delineated.
- Vaccine distribution needs to begin with the countries facing the most difficulties and in the most marginalized and at-risk population centers. No to vaccine apartheid!
- Healthcare is a human right. It should not be a commodity. For this reason, tit is necessary to expropriate the private healthcare companies that offer healthcare only for profit. All privatized hospitals and medical centers need to be socialized under workers’ control.
- Put into place strict quarantine measures with guaranteed income and services (enough money to meet basic living expenses, housing with dignity, free internet access, etc.) in order to slow contagion while vaccines are distributed.
- The resources needed to put this working class emergency program into practice already exist. We ned to expropriate the fortunes of the bankers of businessmen of every country, cancel internal and external debts to imperialist institutions like the IMF, take over key industrial centers and agricultural production in order to meet the majority of humanity’s needs.
We as the IWL-FI and each of its constituent parties, will be organizing May Day events to make it a day of internationalist struggle against the capitalist pandemic and its attendant genocide.
Long live the fight for socialism!
To do away with these hardships, we need to put an end to the global capitalist system. It is not possible to reform or humanize capital, as various reformist tendencies insist. There is no possible alternative within this system. Proposals to improve capitalism in its decadent, final stages are nothing more than a reactionary wishful thinking.
As we organize our resistance to capitalism, we need to discuss and prepare to fight for a path to a better future that puts an end to this system of oppression and exploitation that is drowning us in barbarity.
As various experts have stated, this will not be the last pandemic. It is possible that we will live through even worse health crises. Neither is this crisis the only way in which capitalism is leaving us impoverished while it destroys the environment. The destruction of our planet goes hand in hand with capitalism’s ceaseless drive for profit at any cost.
On behalf of the IWL-FI, we say that there is no way out of this situation other than by defeating capitalism and the construction of socialism by means of a workers’ revolution. A system that serves human needs. This is a task that can only be carried under the leadership of the working class, in conjunction with other exploited and oppressed peoples.
If previously we had nothing to lose but our chains, now we have to fight just to save our lives. For as long as private property and capital continue to exist, new global catastrophes will repeat until the end of time.
The most important task today is the construction and the strengthening of revolutionary parties as part of a democratically-centralized International, to bring a socialist, internationalist workers’ program to ongoing struggles, and to maintain the clear strategic goal of defeating capitalism, to end the barbarity that a handful of multibillionaires are subjecting us to.
Long live May Day, the international workers’ day!
Long live the global working class!
We will stop this genocide!
Enough with capitalism!
Long live the world socialist revolution!
- See https://www.oxfam.org/es/notas-prensa/los-milmillonarios-del-mundo-poseen-mas-riqueza-que-4600-millones-de-personas
- See https://www.eleconomista.es/economia/noticias/11087781/03/21/El-85-de-la-poblacion-mundial-vive-con-menos-de-30-dolares-al-dia.html
- See https://www.eleconomista.es/opinion-blogs/noticias/10816981/10/20/El-virus-incrementa-la-pobreza-extrema.html
- See https://www.animalpolitico.com/2021/03/covid-personas-pobres-escolaridad-mal-pagados/