Alyson Kennedy, the Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, issued the following emergency call to action March 18. Malcolm Jarrett is the party’s 2020 vice presidential candidate.
Workers and our unions need to demand that the government act now to protect working people and humankind from the devastating consequences of today’s intertwined capitalist economic and social crises.
The capitalist rulers, who are responsible for these breakdowns, must mobilize massive resources to contain and reverse the coronavirus epidemic and treat all those who fall ill. We must demand emergency relief for the working class, farmers, small shop owners, and other exploited producers under the hammer blows of lockdowns and layoffs struck by the bosses, their government, and their Democratic and Republican parties.
We must reject the social isolation the rulers are seeking to impose on working people. Whatever health measures may be required under specific conditions, what workers need above all is class solidarity and united action to demand solutions to what we face.
Call on the government to construct emergency hospitals, provide beds and expand the production of medical equipment and supplies — now! Increase the training of workers to treat those infected and massively expand testing for the virus — now!
COVID-19 is a disease, with scientifically knowable causes, vaccines, and cures. There’s nothing “natural” about today’s worldwide crisis, however. It is a pure product of profit-driven bosses and the capitalist governments that serve them.
The propertied rulers want us to believe the social calamity we face is caused by a mutant virus, and all we can do is wait it out, let enough “carriers” die and hope we aren’t one of them. But class-conscious workers have an opposite moral and political compass. We keep looking for ways to advance the interests of humanity’s toiling majority, as we stand up to bosses’ attacks on our wages, job conditions and constitutional rights.
Workers at a Chicago-area Walmart this year, for example, refused to work in a tire and lube pit contaminated by raw sewage, despite the bosses’ insistence — and won a victory.
Workers at a store in New York state got together and pushed back efforts to force them to take lunch breaks at a time convenient to management, not when they were hungry and needed a break.
In each of these fights, workers won support and solidarity from other working people, who knew only too well how bosses try to make us pay for their crisis. By fighting, these workers strengthened both themselves and others. They showed we can rely on our own capacities for common action. In face of the crisis bearing down on us right now, we need to be at work, together with fellow workers, in order to multiply such resistance.
Demand that the government provide immediate jobless benefits for all workers, farmers and other exploited producers, for as long as they need it! Weekly unemployment relief that working people can depend on — not just a one-time check in the mail that falls far short of what is needed.
Jobless workers need such benefits, regardless of what kind of work they’d been doing. No matter where they live — in a big city, small town, or rural areas. Whether or not they have “papers” the rulers demand in order to be “legal.” Whether these workers had been “permanent,” “temporary” or “self-employed.”
In face of sudden job cuts and health emergencies, it is essential to ensure that no worker or their family is left by the bosses to fend for themselves. It’s a precondition to strengthening the solidarity and combativity of our class.
The working class and unions need to fight for a government-funded public works program to put millions to work at union-scale wages — building hospitals, housing, and other facilities working people need.
From the polio epidemic and outbreak of the HIV virus in the last century, medical treatments have been developed to protect human beings from such deadly scourges.
We need to demand a crash government program to greatly expand the resources to produce a coronavirus vaccine, as well as medicines to ameliorate the conditions and cure those infected. Such vital work can’t be left to profit-driven decisions and priorities by the owners of giant drug companies, nor to billion-dollar federal bonanzas for their coffers.
It is the capitalist government’s responsibility to mount an immediate and compulsory mobilization to produce a vaccine, using all the scientific and technological advances available. What’s more, steps forward in developing vaccines and treatments must be shared with those who need it around the world, not wrapped up in patents and “intellectual property” red tape at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives.
Price gouging by profiteers, anti-social hoarding, turning your back on others in need — all these are by-products of the panic and fear bred by the rulers’ refusal to take the necessary measures. Such cowardice and fear are especially rampant today among middle class and professional layers.
But resolute action by the working class and unions can counter these anti-working-class attitudes and acts by pointing a way forward.
Workers organizing together to fight the bosses is the foundation on which all other progress rests. A war footing is necessary to confront today’s deepening capitalist crisis and its consequences. Not a war for superprofits of the ruling class in the U.S. and around the world, like the wars workers have experienced throughout our lives and of those who came before us. But a battle to win protection for the working class and our oppressed and exploited allies, here and all over the world.
As we gain confidence in ourselves and fellow workers, we can rebuild our badly weakened unions and begin using union power once again.
We can establish our own party, a labor party that helps us organize and fight politically for these demands. A revolutionary party that speaks — and above all, acts — for all working people.
And we will develop the courage, class consciousness and battle-tested experience and savvy needed to build a movement of millions. A movement to overturn rule by the capitalist exploiters, replace it with a workers and farmers government, and march arm in arm with our sisters and brothers everywhere toward a socialist world.