Combating Police Brutality and the COVID-19 Crisis: What Socialists Demand

(Photo: Jewel Samad / AFP)
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By JAMES FORTIN

Not since the Great Depression of the 1930’s has the American working class experienced with such gravity an assault to its standing as we are witnessing today. Accompanying this attack has been a murderous wave of modern-day lynchings of Black people – whether a knee to the neck or a bullet in the back.  The intertwined crises of the government’s failures to control the COVID-19 disease, the capitalist economic meltdown, and the widespread societal trauma imposed on the working class is beginning to pose, in the most vivid terms, a choice.  Do we continue under the irrational capitalist rule of the 1%, or do we demand meaningful solutions to the problems that have been thrust upon us, the 99%?

Increasingly, workers of all manner in the U.S. are seeing that their needs for good jobs, a healthy environment  and the ready availability of food and decent housing do not align with the actions of the bankers, corporate titans and politicians of the capitalist class. While class differences have existed since the rise of capitalism, these differences are now being understood and consciously expressed by growing numbers of working people. Our class increasingly sees that the interests of the privileged 1% are wholly contradictory to those of the working 99%.

Socialists have the political and moral responsibility to contend for the leadership of our class in this era of COVID-19. What demands in these times should we raise to provide the clarity and action points needed for greater numbers of workers to fully comprehend the contradictory situations they confront and then to act?

Some basic points:

Equal rights for all workers free from police violence.

African-Americans, Latinx, Native Peoples, Asian-Americans and other oppressed peoples have suffered the worst consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. These minorities experience the highest infection rates and a highly disproportionate number of deaths compared to whites. At the very same time, unending police murders of Blacks for the “crimes” of jogging in white neighborhoods, selling sundries without a license, or sleeping in car, are rampant testimony to systemic racism. This combined onslaught has magnified the already disparate difficulties suffered by the oppressed such as inferior housing, higher rates of unemployment and less opportunity for better paying jobs. Socialists must address and fight to eliminate these shortcomings. We say:

  • Disarm, defund, and disband the police!
  • Self-determination for Black, Latinx, and Native American people!
  • Commence re-building of poor neighborhoods, inner cities, and tribal lands under worker & local community control!
  • For a community-based jobs program to provide work for all the oppressed!

Women and LGBTQI persons are entitled to full democratic and economic rights.

Historically, many other distinct groups in the U.S. have suffered daily disparate treatment, economically and socially.  Pay scales for women, LGBTQI, and people of color remain below that of white men.  Rampant discrimination is often found in employment, housing, accommodations, and even retail, financial and restaurant services.  Fear of coming out has relegated many to closeted lives and, in turn, empowered bigots and police to continue their brutal treatment of these oppressed.  We must unreservedly insist:

  • End all discrimination against women! Equal pay for equal work; full access to free quality health care including abortion!
  • Ban all discrimination against LGBTQI persons, in addition to the Supreme Court’s ruling outlawing workplace discrimination!
  • Support mass movements of the oppressed to gain full democratic inclusion!
  • End violence against women and LGBTQI people! Jail the offenders!

The health of working people is more important than the profits of the super-rich.

Let us not hesitate for a moment to state that the novel coronavirus is a capitalist virus – born and bred in the rapacious land uses of capitalist growth and agriculture, and fed by the inaction and denial of the likes of Donald Trump, Boris Johnson and other “leaders” serving the needs of the ruling rich.  It is unacceptable that in the face of the Covid contagion American workers are either uninsured or under-insured; that hospitals across the country have been closed in name of profit while communities needs are the greatest; that lack of PPE and ventilators has become the benchmark of government inaction in the face of growing numbers of infections; and that the inhabitants of nursing homes, homeless shelters, prisons and schools are now the fodder for the disease.  All of this while the rich retreat to their yachts and second homes to avoid infection. We must take the profit motive out of health care and demand:

  • Free health care for all, for life, including virus testing, PPE, and vaccines!
  • Nationalize the health care industry including hospitals & pharmaceutical giants!
  • Re-open the closed hospitals and clinics & place under worker & community control!
  • For a massive expansion of medical facilities serving the communities of the oppressed!

Everyone has the right to a secure, safe, and good paying job.

For the past 40 years Democrat and Republican administrations alike have coddled the rich with massive tax cuts and subsidies, accompanied by an assault on trade unions and cuts to social services.  A regime of austerity has seen a living wage and job security replaced by an economy of part time jobs, low pay, and few if any benefits.  This has resulted in the greatest transfer of wealth from the working class to the ruling elite in the history of our country.  As the waves of COVID-19 emerged an immiserated working class succumbed to new economic indignities imposed by the ruling class.  We must take control of our working lives and demand:

  • Share the work. Shorten the work week to 30 hours with no reduction in pay! 
  • Full pay & benefits during unemployment until rehired!
  • No forced return to deadly, unsafe work!
  • For a massive public works program at top union wages for jobless workers to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure, schools, and hospitals!

Safe, habitable housing is a human right.

Economic contractions are a problem created by the capitalist class, not the working class.  The homes and apartments of working people cannot be placed in jeopardy because of capitalism’s business cycles nor due to its financial recklessness.  The banking system historically has been complicit in capitalism’s drive for profits at the expense homeowners and renters.  The poor and the homeless, senior citizens and the young, working people universally — all deserve a decent place to inhabit and to retain, COVID-19 or otherwise.  Our demands for universal quality housing must include:

  • Limit housing costs to no greater than 25% of household income!
  • No evictions, no foreclosures!
  • Nationalize the banks!
  • Begin immediate national programs to build quality housing for all!

Re-orient all elements of health, jobs, housing, and personal and global security to the needs of working people, not the idle, controlling rich.

For centuries, the actions of the U.S. government have reflected the interests of the capitalist ruling class.  Austerity aimed at the working class, wars abroad for territory and natural resources, destruction of the environment in the name of fossil fuel profits – these and virtually all other actions taken by Democrats and Republicans alike are meant to primarily serve the needs of the 1%. And now, the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic shredding of our existence lays bare the hollowness of promises by spokespeople for the ruling class that they have our interests at heart.  We must demand substantial change in our own right:

  • Tax the rich, not working people.  100 percent tax on all annual incomes exceeding    $300,000! 
  • Abolish the trillion-dollar war budget. Money for human needs not war!
  • Stop the fossil fuel-induced climate catastrophe. Nationalize Big Oil, Agribusiness,      and all elements of the fossil fuel industry and place under worker control!
  • Transition to a clean, environmentally sustainable economy.  Jobs at top union            wages for all replaced workers during the transition!

If these demands make sense to you, or if you want to discuss these further, contact Socialist Action.  We are the revolutionary socialist political party of your class.  We welcome you.

Socialist Action News

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