The International League of Peoples Struggles Workers’ Commission joins the working class across the world in marking this year’s International Labour Day. We give our warmest working-class solidarity to the workers and oppressed people who continue to persist and resist amid the worsening economic crisis marked by the global pandemic.
The World Health Organization reports that global cases of infection have surpassed 142 million and global deaths from the new coronavirus are more than 3 million. Over 800 million doses of vaccine have been administered. Over 2.5 million of the deaths have been in the Americas and Europe. Many countries are experiencing a fourth surge of the pandemic, with the rate of infection out of control and health systems overwhelmed.
For decades now, neoliberal globalization has left the public healthcare system of countries in a state of neglect due to privatization and austerity measures. Due to the Great Lockdown in 2020, global economic production sharply fell, while there is also a decline in consumption, slowing down capitalist accumulation.
The capitalists have responded by flooding the global economy with cash, most of which has flowed into speculative investments in shares and residential housing. Governments used taxpayers’ money through public debt to bailout capitalists through rescue packages and stimulus plans. But these mere emergency measures, instead of resolving the crisis, further aggravate the contradictions of capitalism.
Worsening condition of workers
Global unemployment has already risen by 255 million jobs lost, estimated by the International Labor Organization, worse than the 2009 financial crisis with 22 million job losses. However, the labor situation is no different than it was before the spread of the virus. Workers are suffering from wage cuts, unemployment, indebtedness, homelessness, lack of access to social services, and rising cost of living.
While there is massive and widespread destruction of productive forces on one hand, there is further concentration of capitalist accumulation on the other. Under capitalism a handful of exceptionally rich and powerful states are plundering the whole world. While billions of people suffered in the pandemic, capitalism singled out the rich and 493 new billionaires were created with a total wealth of over US$2 trillion.
Leading industrial countries are currently incurring massive public debt on top of an already alarming public debt prior to the pandemic. To offset the pandemic’s economic toll, the total global debt total reached an all-time high of $281 trillion by the end of 2020, or more than 355 per cent of global GDP, according to the Institute of International Finance.
In order to repay their debts, capitalists will focus on break-neck extraction of super profits through austerity measures. Anti-worker policies such as race-to-the-bottom wages and flexible labour arrangements will be intensified especially in the Global South.
Economic crisis leads to political crisis
From being a health crisis, the situation brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic has rapidly developed into a political crisis. More and more get infected and die. Many people suffer from hunger, disease and other hardships.
Right-wing governments in different countries exploited the Covid-19 crisis to further accumulate authoritarian powers and impose more draconian measures. Overly restrictive rules on travel and work were coupled with heavy-handed use of military and police to enforce people’s compliance to public heath measures.
As such, democratic struggles, strikes and protests have erupted around the world in Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Lebanon, Venezuela, Syria, Belgium, and many other places. Trade union leaders, workers and activists at the forefront of the struggle are being red-tagged, harassed, arbitrarily arrested and detained, and in some cases, killed by state forces. Despite these attacks, workers remain steadfast in their struggles for secure jobs and good incomes. Capitalists and governments must be held accountable for their negligence of workers’ rights.
To overcome the pandemic, workers and people need to stand up and act collectively. Unions must continue to demand that workers be paid compensation to cover their cost of living affected by the pandemic. Workers must demand safety measures in workplaces to protect them against Covid-19 infections. Short-term contractual workers must demand assurances of continued work and job security. Workers must defend their right to unionize, and demand that the capitalists heed their calls.
This year, as we mark the 150th year of the historic Paris Commune, the international working class must grasp the basic lesson that the key task of emancipation is to smash the bureaucratic-military machine of the reactionaries and to replace it with a workers’ and people’s democratic government.
The entire people must reject the “new normal” that is mere continuation of the old capitalist system that paved way to the current crisis we are now facing. The working people, together with all oppressed groups from all over the world, must intensify their struggles for a new society where justice, democracy and freedom are the norms.
Working Class Response
- Global free COVID-19 vaccination for all
- End trade union repression – extend workers’ rights
- Expand public sector health services
- Increase national minimum wages everywhere
- Secure, quality jobs – end contractualization
- National industrial development – end reliance on global supply chains
- Radical action on global warming and ecological sustainability
- No war.
Our answers must be democratic, ecological, socialist. There is no time to lose.
Authorised by WORKINS (Workers International Struggle Initiatives) and ILPS Workers Commission (International League of Peoples Struggles), May 1, 2021. https://ilps.info