Workers’ struggles don’t stop during coronavirus

By Terry Evans
May 4, 2020

Reader Byron Johnson-Blanchard writes that the article “Morality of Capitalist Rulers Reflected in Shutdown of AA” in the April 13 issue of the Militant presents views he considers “ridiculous and reckless” for counterposing “face-to-face human interactions and neighborliness” to the atomization of the working class imposed by the capitalist rulers using the COVID-19 epidemic as a pretext.

The article by Róger Calero describes the brutal impact the shutdown of 12-step meetings by government “shelter-in-place” orders has on the workers and others who depend on them. For many struggling with addiction, maintaining healthy social connections is key for staying sober. Isolation increases the risk of relapsing, which can have deadly consequences.

The article also rejects isolating senior citizens in need of assisted living through government mandates that deny company and vital care provided by relatives. The profit-driven health business in the U.S. all too often leads to neglect of the elderly, disabled and other “unseen” sections of the producing classes. Many workers only get adequate care in nursing homes because of insistent intervention by their relatives.

This is one of the reasons more workers are open to discussing why the capitalist class is unfit to rule and needs to be replaced.

Citing the number of deaths from COVID-19, Johnson-Blanchard says every worker should “stay home safe.” But jobs are the only source of income and sustenance for workers and their families and more can see that it’s jobs, not the virus, that’s the main problem.

Most important, it is only by being at work that workers have the opportunity to organize together against the cause of the growing social crisis imposed by the bosses and their government. This crisis existed before the epidemic, is growing during it, and will continue afterwards. It is at work where workers are able to exercise our social power against the bosses.

Instead, Johnson-Blanchard urges workers to abandon the one place where we have any power as a class, and submit to government isolation measures. Over time workers who are cut adrift without a job and left to face desperate conditions alone at home are not only less likely to see themselves as part of a fighting class, but are more likely to become declassed, demoralized and susceptible to reactionary demagogues.

Bosses and industrial trusts have already gotten or are insisting their government let them take steps that shortcut safety, cut wages and speed up production. They have not and will not put their profit-driven assaults on workers and our allies on hold. “Essential workers” already face escalating job combinations, pressure to not take breaks and more.

The class struggle isn’t on hold

The “viral-centric” propaganda bombardment by government figures at all levels and in the capitalist media obscures the reality that the class conflicts that underlie all social relations do not dissipate in times of crisis. They try to convince working people that “we’re all in this together.” But there is no “we” between workers and bosses.

It is only through collective struggle that workers get to practice the solidarity that ties our class together and acquire the values that make the working class what it is — a class that out of necessity must combine together and fight tenaciously to ensure the survival of ourselves and of all culture.

None of this means workers have to be oblivious to the disease. Keeping a safe distance or wearing a mask if you want to is not the same thing as government-imposed social isolation.

The bosses have slashed jobs to try to defend their capital. The Militant will continue to urge workers to fight for a federally funded public works program to put millions back to work at union-scale pay. And to promote fights on the job to defend wages and working conditions. That is the course to put our class in a stronger position to resist the bosses’ assaults, not staying at home in dread of the virus.