This System is Making Us Sick

This System is Making Us Sick

Submitted by Secretariat on Mon, 03/16/2020 - 16:23

Statement of the IWA Secretariat in Response to the Situations Surrounding the COVID-19 Pandemic

In many countries now, people are confronted with a huge health  issue. Due to the nature of the capitalist system and its abuses towards  working class people on so many levels, many more of us may become  victims of ruling class negligence and disdain – the disease that  already afflicts our society and social-economic relations. In this  situation, like all others, we really need to rely on each other to  preserve our health and our lives.

The Sections of the International Workers' Association have responded  to their local situations in different ways. As advocates of the  general strike to weaken the power of those who oppress and abuse us, we  see no better time for the working class of certain countries to use  this tool of struggle, to act in self-defense, to protect their health  and promote the strength of collective action against the power of state  coercion and capital.

Our unions have put forth various demands and calls for action on the  local level and are engaging in some concrete struggles in a number of  workplaces. On the global level, there are several general positions and  demands which need to be propagated in response to the current  pandemic.

1. All workers who have been forced out of work because of  state-enforced measures employer decisions, economic cutbacks or other  reasons or who are ill need to receive paid leave.

A great majority of the working class around the world barely make  ends meet and cannot afford to lose income. Those that do are threatened  to become victims again – among others, the victims of landlords and  creditors. Several governments have already announced aid packages to  businesses, but the elites are much less generous to working people.

After the pandemic has decreased, the working class must struggle to make paid leave a permanent right for everybody.

2. We advocate the immediate stoppage of work (with paid leave) for  all the workers of non-essential industries and services in all areas  which are threatened by the spread of this virus. Where the bosses or  state threaten and coerce people to continue working despite the risks,  we call for the organization of strikes, solidarity strikes and other  forms of direct action. We need concerted solidarity and mutual support  to show that we will not be stopped.

3. We demand immediate and significant wage increases for all medical  workers (including other „non-medical” personnel in medical centers,  such as cleaners). These wage increases are to be permanent. One of the  greatest pathogens facing many countries around the world is lack of  access to healthcare, caused by gross underfunding, as governments  decide to divert money elsewhere, away from the most essential human  needs. Many medical workers are severely undervalued and have spent  years in struggle. They are exploited and disrespected on an everyday  basis – yet we expect their total dedication to saving other people's  lives in situations like this and it is sometimes at great risk to their  own health and well-being. We must struggle to force the State – which  we view as only the temporary custodian of our public collective money –  to properly secure the health security of the population by readjusting  social priorities. Further, the IWA reminds the working class that the  State has usurped the power of people to decide things themselves and  usually acts mainly in the interest of capital. We must take power back  from it to introduce a truly social and egalitarian system of taking  care of all the members of our society collectively.

4. We demand immediate bonus payments to all the other workers who  are needed in various functions still so vital to keeping things running  smoothly – from supermarket cashiers to food deliverers, producers and  suppliers, from social workers to sanitation workers. Anybody who is  working in increased risk and still working while others stay in their  houses deserve our mutual aid and support. Where possible, we also call  on people to help these people with their jobs, to give them a rest and  to share the burden. If such workers are forced to work a lot of extra  hours due to the situation, they should be given extra paid leave as  soon as possible when the situation stabilizes.

We need to stress that many of these categories of workers, without  which life itself would be barely possible in urban centers (such as  farmers and other workers on the food supply chain) are among the worst  paid workers in many countries. We must agitate and struggle to  egalitize the value of labor and eliminate the huge contradictions of  the capitalist logic, which fails to adequately compensate huge parts of  the workforce they consider only as replacable parts, not as vital  members of our human community.

5. We demand absolutely free access to health services for all who  may be affected by this current crisis. We must keep this demand as an  area of permanent struggle.

6. We demand special emergency assistance for all people who do not  have a roof over their heads or who live in poor sanitary conditions. In  general, homelessness, housing poverty and various forms of tragic  displacement lead to many deaths and illnesses each year, on top of the  general misery. This is a problem of huge proportions on the world  level. It must be dealt with, in particular by society's assistance and a  permanent struggle against the class of those with capital who  profiteer off their access to and possession of private property. The  world has also responded poorly to numerous humanitarian crises caused  by war and natural disaster, leaving its victims in precarious and often  life-threatening conditions.

7. We demand that any materials which are needed by the population be  provided, especially where people cannot afford it. Our collective  public money should be used to ensure that vulnerable segments of the  population have access to hygenic products, profilactics and medicine.

These seven demands are the minimum we need to push for and, in order  to make the situation a little healthier in the end, we need to press  for more social protection for the general population. This cannot  remain a privilege of the rich.

The working class should finally realize that it is not the state or  the bosses that keep the society running, but the working people  themselves.

The expenditures we demand, to ensure the safe and fairer running or  society as a whole, is our collective money and we have the absolute  right to decide what kind of society we want to live in: one that treats  the elderly, sick, less-privileged masses of people like expendable or  one that cares for everyone and treats everybody as important and with  respect. The State, the bosses and the others that live off the labor or  working people must not be allowed to run things like they have any  longer. Too many people have been made ill by this all and it has been  going on for years and years. Enough is enough!

The system is ill and we need to cure it.

The best medicine against the disease ravaging our populations – and  we are not talking about Coronavirus now – is mutual aid and solidarity  of people.

During this time when many people are affected, we have witnessed  various acts of solidarity initiated from the bottom up, sometimes so  necessary where the system has failed to protect a vulnerable member of  our human community. We call on people to embrace solidarity and to make  it a part of their lives, not only in times of tragedy, but also as  something regular. Solidarity builds community and community is  something that can help any social struggle to gain benefit for  everybody.

From the IWA, we wish all working class people health, safety and  strength in the struggles and challenges you may face at this time.  Remember that solidarity is our weapon, one that is so useful in times  like these. We all need to organize – not only for now, but to fight for  a better world for us all in the future.

IWA Secretariat
Warsaw
March 16, 2020

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