Fever Checkpoint COVID-19

American Capitalism on the Edge of the Abyss

The COVID-19 pandemic has plunged American society into panic and dismay. All fifty US states and Washington, DC have now confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, and the death toll is rising by the hour, after surpassing 150 deaths on March 18. Public health officials worry the US has reached a tipping point and may fast approach the situation seen in Italy, where hospitals are overwhelmed and the entire country is locked down. Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor at Atlanta’s Emory University School of Medicine, recently told CNN: “I’m really worried about … having the worst possible combination: too many patients; too (few) doctors, nurses … to take care of them.”

Things are unraveling quickly as a perfect storm of economic, political, and public health crises blindsides the working class—and the capitalists. With the economy in meltdown and stock markets plummeting, the gravity of the situation—and the risk it poses to his chances for reelection—gradually dawned on the president. Just weeks after calling the worldwide outbreak a “hoax” and then claiming it had been “contained,” Trump was compelled to eat his words and declare a national emergency under the Stafford Act.

Trump Coronavirus press briefing
Just weeks after calling the worldwide outbreak a “hoax,” Trump was compelled to eat his words and declare a national emergency. / Image: White House, Public Domain

On March 13, in one of the most surreal press conferences yet held by an administration infamous for twisting reality beyond recognition, Trump paraded a “who’s who” of corporate America and announced a “historic private-public partnership” to tackle the crisis. With only a “foreign virus” to serve as a boogeyman, Trump appeared shell-shocked and even more disheveled than usual. Fumbling through his ill-prepared notes, he muttered and slurred his message of “hope and inspiration” to the nation:

We’ve been working very hard on this. We’ve made tremendous progress. When you compare what we’ve done to other areas of the world, it’s pretty incredible. A lot of that had to do with the early designation and the closing of the borders. And, as you know, Europe was just designated as the hotspot right now, and we closed that border a while ago. So that was lucky or through talent or through luck. Call it whatever you want. But through a very collective action and shared sacrifice and national determination, we will overcome the threat of the virus.

Collective failure

Then, on March 16, Trump doubled down on his rapid response, asserting that “We have a problem that, a month ago, nobody thought about”—a barefaced lie. Critics have correctly pointed out that Trump abolished the White House office on pandemic preparedness in 2018. But cuts to the public health system have been a constant for decades under both Democratic and Republican administrations. In 2012, Obama signed a bill that diverted more than $6 billion from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, which provides state and local health agencies with the bulk of their funding for this kind of crisis. Trump’s 2017 tax cuts for the rich robbed the fund of a further $750 million. In addition to this, America’s private healthcare system has been closing hospitals and cashing in wherever possible. Manhattan used to have a large hospital called St. Vincent’s, but this valuable piece of real estate was turned into expensive condominiums, cutting available hospital beds that are desperately needed today. All of this set the stage for the government’s “headless chickens” response to the most severe health crisis since the Spanish Influenza outbreak in 1918—which infected 27% of the global population and killed an estimated 50 million worldwide.

Compare Trump’s face-saving weasel words to the frank honesty of Anthony Fauci, Director of the Institute of Allergic and Infectious Diseases, whose interest is in protecting public health, not the president:

The system is not really geared to what we need right now … That is a failing. Let’s admit it. The idea of anybody getting [tested] easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes. But we’re not.

The relatively low numbers reported so far are due entirely to the lack of testing kits. Hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—have been exposed and possibly infected. Had it not been for the defiance of independent researchers like Dr. Helen Chu in Seattle, who tested for COVID-19 without authorization, we would be even more in the dark as to the real scope of the pandemic. As she realized with horror when her long-delayed test results finally started to come in: “It must have been here this entire time. It’s just everywhere already.”

State Public Health Laboratory in Exton Tests for COVID-19
The relatively low numbers reported so far are due entirely to the lack of testing kits. Hundreds of thousands—perhaps millions—have been exposed and possibly infected. / Image: Governor Tom Wolf, Flickr

The dilemma confronting the bourgeois was this: further dislocate the economy to try to contain the virus—or simply cross your fingers and hope things would magically get better. They did everything possible to avoid restricting the movement of people and goods as this would mean a decline in commerce. If you shut down the market, after all, how can capitalism function? Precious time was lost to indifference, denial, bureaucratic red tape, and good old-fashioned avarice as the virus slowly but surely established itself in the United States.

For several critical days, the ruling class was in a state of paralysis, afraid to take measures to stop the spread of the virus, but also terrified of the heightened social instability that would result from a delay in decisive action. Just days after Trump’s incoherent press conference, California’s Bay Area was locked down under a “shelter in place” order, and New York City may be next in line.

Coronavirus: MTA New York City Transit Sanitizes Stations and Subway Cars
NYC residents have been advised to assume that the entire population has been exposed to the virus. / Image: Marc A. Hermann, Flickr

As infections spread throughout the city, New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to close the school system and had his security team escort him from the east side of Manhattan to his gym in Brooklyn on a daily basis—as if it were business as usual. Only after several top aides threatened to resign and teachers began organizing a sick-out did he finally cave to the growing public pressure. By the time he moved to severely limit gatherings and shut down the city’s schools, restaurants, theaters, and more, it was too little, too late.

Vast swathes of the city resemble a ghost town, and its residents have been advised to assume that the entire population has been exposed to a virus with a kill rate that could surpass those of heart disease and cancer combined. As the New York Times put it: “Life in New York City, a colossus of 8.6 million people and an economic engine for the country, is grinding to a shocking halt.”

Pandemonium in the economy

Apprehension turned to fear and then to all-out panic as the stock markets shed trillions. Former Secretary of Labor, Robert Reich—a darling of liberal apologists for capitalism—pointed out the obvious when he noted that “our economy is shutting down.” And though he intended to speak for “all Americans,” what he meant by “our” was “the bourgeoisie.”

In an unprecedented move, the Federal Reserve dropped interest rates to zero. It said it would buy at least $700 billion in government and mortgage-related bonds to try to hold things together. The markets shrugged these drastic measures off and continued their free fall. The VIX, an indicator of stock market volatility, spiked 43% to 86.69 on Monday, March 16, surpassing the record set on October 24, 2008.

Far from inspiring confidence, the dramatic interest-rate cuts only signaled that the Fed itself is panicked and that things are much worse than they are letting on. Flooding the economy with cheap money will not stimulate spending when the rich are already sitting on trillions, millions of people are holed up at home, mass layoffs have already started, and an avalanche of evictions and foreclosures are sure to follow. Now the US economy is poised for its worst quarterly contraction in history.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned that the economic ramifications of the pandemic could be worse than the Great Recession and that unemployment could skyrocket to 20% in short order. According to global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, as many as 7.4 million workers may lose their jobs in the restaurant, bar, and hospitality sector alone. Never mind the effects all of this will have on the airline, manufacturing, retail, entertainment, and other affected industries.

Stock Exchange Covid-19 crash
The US economy is now poised for its worst quarterly contraction in history. / Image: Gerd Altmann via Pixabay

After initially pledging a paltry $50 billion to combat the outbreak of the virus, nearly $1.5 trillion more is now being proposed to prevent a total collapse of the economy. But even this will not be sufficient to stem the hemorrhaging. If the government follows through with its proposal to send checks directly to every adult below a certain income bracket in a bid to keep things solvent, how will this be paid for? If the money is simply printed, inflation will eventually assert itself, eroding the value of the dollar and the effect of the stimulus.

Mnuchin insists that “this is not the time to worry about [the deficit].” But adding to the already groaning national debt is not a zero-sum game. At $24 trillion, it is already more than the entire annual output of the US economy. The interest payments on the existing debt alone eat up nearly half a trillion dollars per year and account for 10% of the federal budget.

This money will eventually have to be paid back by the working class in the form of higher taxes or future austerity—all to pay interest to private creditors. And although these checks and loans are allegedly being proposed to help “hard-working Americans and small-business owners,” the real intent is to ensure that the banks and other creditors get their rent, mortgage, credit card, auto, student, and other loan payments. In other words, this is yet another colossal swindle and handout to the rich in the guise of emergency universal basic income. And what happens when the checks run out—but the jobs haven’t returned?

Panic-buying, hoarding, price-gouging, and empty store shelves have filled the headlines as ordinary Americans desperately grope for some semblance of stability and comfort in a world apparently gone insane. Raised in a world of artificial scarcity, with their life savings nonexistent or shattered, and gripped by fear over the future, most people are too stressed at the moment to notice the shell game unfolding right under their noses as the economy is re-ratcheted yet again to protect private ownership of the means of production.

A snapshot of America on the precipice

COVID-19 is not the cause of the crisis. It has merely exposed the rotten structure of the system and given it a kick. A healthy organism could have survived the shock relatively unscathed. But capitalism’s inability to handle this additional stress proves it is fundamentally unsound—and incompatible with anything remotely resembling a dignified human existence for the majority.

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2
COVID-19 is not the cause of the crisis. It has merely exposed the rotten structure of the system and given it a kick. / Image: NIAID-RML, Public Domain

The Democrats are united with Trump and his cronies in blaming the virus, not capitalism, for the misery facing millions. According to them, “America is Already Great!” But for millions of workers, the “longest boom in US history” did not feel like a recovery at all. Faced once again with a crisis of epic proportions, the capitalists and their political representatives are already longing for the relative stability of the last period. But it’s worth drawing a balance sheet of the state of US capitalism before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Over the last decade, while profits soared and the stock market was booming, the vast majority of the wealth created by the labor of the working class went to enrich a handful of degenerate parasites at the top. The share of wealth held by the Forbes 400 more than doubled from $1.27 trillion in 2009 to nearly $3 trillion in 2019—yet their tax rates went down. Over the last three decades, the wealth of the top 1% rose by $21 trillion, while the poorest 50% saw their net worth fall by $900 billion. The top 1% of US households—about 1.2 million families—had an aggregate net worth of $35 trillion. That’s 32% of the total, up from 27% at the end of the Great Recession in 2009.

At the end of last year, the wealthiest 0.1% of Americans owned as much total wealth as the bottom 90%. Corporate profits in 2018 totaled $2.3 trillion—double the entire GDP of Mexico. Three individuals—Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett—collectively own more wealth than 160 million Americans. This is the equivalent of half the country’s population, or the combined populations of the 40 smallest states. This grotesque transfer of wealth is an open secret and explains the booming demand for “billionaire bunkers,” where many among the superrich have already taken comfortable shelter—far sooner than they expected to need it.

Average worker compensation has risen just 12% since 1978. By comparison, CEO compensation has grown 940% over that same span. One-fifth of Americans have zero or negative net worth, and nearly 80% live paycheck to paycheck. 44% of workers are in low-wage jobs averaging $18,000 a year.

The federal minimum wage remains just $7.25 an hour. A minimum-wage worker would need to hold 2.5 full-time jobs to afford a one-bedroom apartment in most cities in the US. One in six US children lives in poverty. Half of them live in extreme poverty. That’s six million children whose families make less than half the official poverty level.

Then there’s the position of working women and working mothers in particular. Since the 1970s, per-child spending on child care has increased over 2,000%. Since the 1990s, child-care costs have grown twice as fast as overall inflation. In California, the cost of a typical day-care center is now equal to almost half of the median income of a single mother.

Drug overdoses, smoking, alcohol, and suicides have contributed to a fall in life expectancy for white women, who have historically had a higher quality of life compared to black and Latino women. Little wonder that US births have declined for four years in a row with the lowest number of births in 32 years.

This means that immigration is more important than ever as a source of exploitable labor. Yet, for domestic “divide and rule” political reasons, these workers are being terrorized and scapegoated, forced even deeper into the shadows of exploitation and oppression. While cities across the country locked up to ride out the pandemic, ICE was busy raiding hospitals and carting potentially infected undocumented immigrants off to detention centers. The horror of the immigrant concentration camps is yet another example of the vile nature of capitalism, which cannot contain the whole of humanity within its artificial borders.

Ice Police arrest
While cities across the country locked up to ride out the pandemic, ICE was busy raiding hospitals and carting potentially infected undocumented immigrants off to detention centers. / Image: US Department of Homeland Security, Public Domain

As for black Americans in the post-#BLM era, in Philadelphia, black men are ten times more likely to die by homicide than white residents. Black babies are three times as likely to die before their first birthday than white babies. In New York City, which is highly segregated by race and ethnicity, people living in East Harlem live an average of 71.2 years while those living in the Upper East Side, just a few blocks away, live to 89.9 years. Most states imprison black people at five times the rate of whites. The typical median weekly earnings for black full-time employees were just $727 from July 2019 to September 2019 versus $943 for whites—a life-changing 30% difference. As the economy implodes, we can be sure these disparities will deepen even further.

Then there is the healthcare crisis. Even before the coronavirus era, the absurdity of basing a healthcare system around the interests of maximizing profits for the insurance companies, hospital chains, and big pharma has been a factor in the anti-status quo shift in public opinion. Now this is being compounded tenfold. Millions of Americans struggle to afford health insurance in the first place, and those who do have it are not insulated from crippling medical debt. One out of every six Americans has an unpaid medical bill on their credit report, totaling $81 billion. About 530,000 bankruptcies are filed annually due to a medical-crisis-induced debt. COVID-19 tests may be given for free—if you can find one—but the costs of treatment could bankrupt untold numbers of already-poor Americans.

After more than a decade of “recovery,” two in five American adults would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency, and one in three households is classified as “financially fragile.” The social safety net, already in tatters after decades of Democratic and Republican cuts, is under renewed assault. Before the latest chaos, Trump had proposed hundreds of billions in cuts to food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, disability, subsidized student loans, and other programs and tax breaks depended on by millions of poor Americans.

Homelessness and Poverty in the US
After more than a decade of “recovery,” poverty, homelessness, underemployment, and instability remain rampant in US society. / Image: Public Domain

How on earth millions of people are supposed to afford to buy essential items for a two-week quarantine or longer is beyond anyone’s comprehension. Even if the proposed $1,000-checks get sent out, they can only keep people afloat temporarily—before they sink even deeper into the pit capitalism has dug for them.

As for the youth, they are a sensitive barometer for the growing social discontent and are particularly affected by the crisis. Suicide is now the second-leading cause of death for those aged 10 to 17. Ten years ago, suicide was the fourth-leading cause of death for this age group. Anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, and an estimated 32% of adolescents have at least one anxiety disorder. In New York City alone, 114,000 students are homeless, a 70% increase over the past decade. There are similar rates in other large cities like Chicago and Los Angeles—cities controlled by the Democratic Party.

This is the real situation in the wealthiest country on earth. Even before COVID-19 pushed things entirely over the edge, millions of Americans did not earn enough in a year to cover the most basic expenses of housing, health care, transportation, and education, let alone “extravagances” such as food, clothing, entertainment, and savings. The ongoing epidemics of obesity, opioids, heroin, anxiety, suicide, HIV, and more, especially in the rural parts of the country, are not an accident.

Election 2020

In the midst of all of this, the 2020 elections continue to unfold. As we explained previously, the ruling class closed ranks against Sanders and placed all their bets on Biden. Although Ohio postponed its primary due to the pandemic, votes in Florida, Illinois, and Arizona went ahead and Biden was handed what may now be an insurmountable delegate lead. To close the deficit, he would have to win every remaining contest by roughly 40 points. The pressure is rapidly mounting for Sanders to help “unite the party” and exit the race. Desperate to gain his rival’s committed base of young voters, Biden has extended an olive branch and thanked Sanders and his “passionate and tenacious” supporters for “shifting the fundamental conversation” in the country. Although Bernie is still formally in the race, the stage is set for yet another classic bait-and-switch.

Bernie Sanders 2020 Sign
The 2020 elections continue to unfold, with Biden gaining what may now be an insurmountable delegate lead against Sanders. / Image: Lorie Shaull, Flickr

All those who claimed that supporting Bernie as a Democrat was part of a “new strategy” and not merely a variant of lesser-evilism will soon be confronted with a very concrete question—to support Joe Biden or not—starting with Bernie himself. This is where all the enthusiasm, money, and time that went into the Sanders campaign has led. This is the dead-end of the Democratic Party—that putrid swamp of all progressive movements. If all those resources and all that energy had instead been channeled into building a new socialist party that challenged the two-party monopoly, we would be in a very different place today.

With everything turned upside down by COVID-19, millions would be open to a different vision for government, and the floodgates could be opened for a fundamental change in American politics and society. Given the social and political volatility of the present period, it is impossible to pinpoint precisely what form a future mass party will take, and the floodgates may yet be opened through the sheer weight of the crisis. There is still the tiniest shred of a chance that Sanders will help launch something new. But he has all but missed his chance to play a decisive role in this process. To be sure, Bernie “shifted the conversation” and single handedly launched a national debate over what socialism is and isn’t. But he did not shift the goalposts and confined himself to the limits of the capitalists’ playing field and rules.

Recent polls indicate that Biden has a good chance of defeating Trump in the general election. But if a week is an eternity in politics in normal times, it is impossible to describe what several months represents in times like these. Will Trump’s reduced access to huge, rowdy crowds take the shine off of his appeal? Will he be so discredited by his abject failure in dealing with the pandemic and the economic meltdown that he is easily dispensed with? Or will he get a pass for the crisis by scapegoating China and Europe? Will voters decide to “change horses in midstream”—or not? Only time will tell. Either way, the capitalists will have a firm defender of their interests in the White House, and US workers will be the losers. As in 2016, another custom-made opportunity to use a politically charged election to lay the foundations for a new mass working-class party has been missed.

And yet, the potential for a mass workers’ party fighting for genuine socialist policies has never been greater. Electoral politics is not the only arena for the class struggle, and the crisis is bringing every aspect of the social order into question, starting with the bourgeois two-party system. With events moving at hyperspeed, we cannot rule out that other forms of struggle and organization may emerge in the months ahead, putting the question of working-class political and economic power on the order of the day far sooner than anyone expects.

For a workers’ government!

Even in the “best of times,” none of the problems facing the majority of workers—from a lack of quality jobs to health care to housing to education—can be solved under capitalism. And now we’re told that the system can handle this unprecedented convergence of crises and make our lives better?

Coronavirus is only the latest—and most contagious—in a recent surge of epidemics around the world, a pattern which itself springs from profit-driven industrial agribusiness methods of production. One effect of the high-density rearing of livestock in crowded conditions is that it lowers the animals’ immune responses to pathogens and increases the frequency of viral transmission to humans. The illegal killing and trade of rare animals is another possible vector for the emergence of new diseases that pose a danger to humans. The endangered pangolin, in particular, is a prime suspect in the case of COVID-19.

So within the limits of capitalist methods of production and distribution—both legal and illegal—this particular coronavirus may or may not have been prevented from entering the human population. But the scale of its spread and devastation could have been easily dealt with if human health and not private wealth were the litmus test for how we allocate our collective resources.

Cognizant of the tremendous resources that will be required to weather the storm, many in positions of power have stated that the fight against COVID-19 must be confronted as though we were in a war. We wholeheartedly agree—with the addendum that it must be confronted on the basis of the class war. The interests of the workers and the capitalists are diametrically opposed. The capitalists’ policy in wartime is the same as in peacetime: to maximize profits and defend their property rights. We cannot trust our fate to those who allowed this disease to escalate to this level through greed and inaction.

Empty supermarket shelves
Only the state and its capacity to enact a central plan can deal with severe crises quickly and efficiently. / Image: Daniel Case, Wikimedia

The capitalists propose unsustainable state spending on an unprecedented scale to shore up their crashing system. Some of them go so far as to call for the partial and temporary nationalization of essential elements of the healthcare system to get the country through the crisis. Even the National Guard and elements of the active-duty military are being mobilized. Trump has also invoked the wartime Defense Production Act to expand the production of hospital masks and other essential items.

After being told for decades that “big government” is the enemy, this is a tacit admission that when push comes to shove, only the state and its capacity to enact a central plan can deal with severe crises quickly and efficiently. But what kind of state can be trusted to act in the best interests of the majority? Can the Trump administration be trusted to defend the interests of the workers? The question all but answers itself.

Marxists have a different vision for what is possible: a workers’ state to transition humanity out of capitalism, starting with the expropriation of all essential for-profit companies, to be operated in the public interest under democratic workers’ control. A workers’ government would mobilize the entire working class to face this challenge head-on.

Along with the full range of transitional demands in the US IMT’s program, below are some measures a government of, by, and for, the working class would implement—if it hadn’t already done so long before:

  • Immediately double the wages and grant union recognition and protections to the “essential workers” on the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19, in the grocery, logistics, transit, healthcare, and other industries. Quadruple their ranks and fight unemployment by training millions more to help take up the strain. “Spare no expense” to guarantee all workers the safety equipment and protections necessary to stem the spread of the virus!
  • For a national minimum wage of $1,000 per week—whether or not you are presently employed, and whether or not you are currently able to go to your job. Why should individual workers and the poor be made to pay for a collective crisis? Companies that cry poverty and inability to cover this should be forced to open their books. If they truly cannot pay, their owners should be relieved of the burden of owning them, and they should be nationalized under democratic workers’ control and management and integrated into a rationally planned economy to ensure everyone’s job is safe and their wages covered.
  • Any factory or other essential workplace that is shuttered or lays off workers to be nationalized and run under democratic workers’ control! For a rational plan of production that ensures no disruption in the supply chain of food, medical supplies, and other essentials!
  • Trump has demagogically stated that “We’ll remove or eliminate every obstacle necessary to deliver our people the care that they need and that they’re entitled to. No resource will be spared. Nothing whatsoever.” However, the president left out the small detail that the main obstacle to guaranteeing anything remotely like this is the capitalist system itself—and that’s the one thing the capitalists cannot and will not voluntarily remove. This is why we demand a socialized health care system free at the point of service. Nationalize the health insurance, medical equipment, and pharmaceutical industries, the hospital networks, and related clinics, and integrate them into a unified, democratically administered public health provider. Nationalize all unused and essential commercial spaces and convert those most suitable into hospitals and “fever clinics” as quickly as possible. Proposals for “single-payer” or “Medicare for all” leave the bulk of the healthcare system in private hands and do not go far enough to guarantee the best possible care at the best possible price to the public treasury.
  • For immediate price controls on all essential items, to be enforced by elected committees in working-class neighborhoods! Anyone caught price-gouging or speculating on the misery of others to be immediately relieved of their goods to be distributed to those most in need.
  • For an immediate and indefinite moratorium on rent and mortgage payments. Drop existing mortgage loan rates to zero and renegotiate terms for working families. Skyrocketing rent is a major stressor even in times of “full employment”—let alone times like these! Take unoccupied homes into public ownership and use them to provide housing for the homeless and to relieve the overcrowding that packs us like rats into big cities. How can people “stay at home” when they don’t have homes to stay in?
  • While we will voluntarily observe social distancing in the interests of public health, we demand that our basic needs be guaranteed and will not accept any limitation of our First Amendment rights in the name of the national emergency!
  • Nationalize the key levers of the economy: The major industries, banks, and corporations! Break with the irrational chaos of the capitalist free market. No to austerity—make the rich pay for the crisis! No compensation to the millionaires and billionaires, only to those in genuine need. Consolidate the nationalized banks into a unified, publicly owned, and administered bank to protect workers’ savings and guarantee affordable loans to all. All nationalized companies to be run under democratic workers’ control and management, integrated into a socialist plan of production to meet the needs of society. End the unsustainable burden of student, credit card, and auto-loan debt and write them off immediately!

These are the kinds of bold measures required—measures that neither the Republicans nor the Democrats can deliver on. All of this may seem unattainable—and under capitalism, that’s true. But revolutionary Marxists base our demands on the objective needs of the working class and the objective potential to meet those needs—not whether or not these things are “practical” or “realistic” on the basis of capitalism.

It’s time to end the uncertainty, waste, and artificial competition of the market. The world has more than enough accumulated wealth and productive capacity to transform the planet and handle crises like COVID-19 and climate change with minimal loss of life and disruption. The top 500 or so corporations in the country account for the vast majority of GDP. Many of these companies are considered to be “too big to fail” by the ruling class. Marxists consider them “too big to be left in private hands.”

The world we lived in just a week or two ago is dead and buried. The norms and worldview that flowed from that world are no longer tenable. Society is in the process of being restructured. The question is whether it will be restructured on terms favorable to the capitalists or whether the working class is going to seize its destiny in its hands in the next historical period.

Although many workers will have their heads down for a time, there will eventually be a wave of strikes, protests, and mass social movements as the workers organize and move into action to protect their livelihood and conditions of life. Workplace occupations and committees are also in the cards as millions are unceremoniously thrown out of work. And we should not rule out the emergence of neighborhood action and defense committees to ensure the safety and wellbeing of residents in working-class and impoverished neighborhoods. All of this could potentially lay the basis for the kind of dual-power situations we’ve seen in recent months in places like Ecuador and Sudan.

The rhythm of such developments is impossible to predict. Marxists do not have a crystal ball, and we understand that even in a period of deep crisis, there can be temporary upswings. It’s possible that the stimulus measures under consideration could stabilize things and temporarily cut across the rise of such phenomena. But nothing fundamental will have been solved, and the working class’s confidence has been deeply rattled.

A “new normality” is being foisted on the workers for the second time in just over a decade. The feeling that “enough is enough” when it comes to the instability and precarity of the system will sooner or later compel millions to move into action. We can, therefore, reasonably predict that the period we have entered will be more tumultuous than 2008, the 1970s, and even the 1930s. There will be many unpredictable consequences. But one consequence we can predict is that at a certain stage, a pre-revolutionary situation will emerge right here in the belly of the beast itself.

Anti-Trump Protest Washington, DC USA
The feeling that “enough is enough” when it comes to the instability and precarity of the system will sooner or later compel millions to move into action. / Image: Ted Eytan, Flickr

Unfortunately, the current labor leaders have done nothing meaningful to mobilize the enormous potential power of their members in this direction. Instead, the head of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka, has appealed to the federation’s 13 million members to “call your representative” to demand OSHA implement better safety standards. This is like asking your neighbors to petition the city council to ask for new sidewalks after a tornado has ripped up the houses and streets!

The working class is disoriented and awed by the sheer scale of what is hitting them. The effect is multiplied by the lack of a clear class-struggle lead. But the current atomization and dispersion will eventually turn into its opposite as millions of Americans realize that individual solutions will not suffice. Solidarity and collective action are needed, and we are confident that the boundless energy and creativity of the working class will find ways to make this a reality.

After bubbling on a slow simmer for the last decade all the contradictions of the system are now at a rolling boil. We are indeed in the midst of a war—and it is said that war is the handmaiden of revolution. The disruption to “normal” life caused by events such as wars, economic, and political crises spark dramatic leaps in consciousness. Millions are being pushed down a path that leads inexorably to revolution.

The curve of development between revolutionary potential and reality can be significantly accelerated if a catalyst in the form of a revolutionary organization is present. This is the perspective the IMT is preparing for. We need “all hands on deck” and we invite you to get involved in one of the many branch and discussion group conference calls we are organizing every week as we ride out the temporary restrictions on movement and gatherings and prepare to throw ourselves into the real-world struggles on the horizon.

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