Private industries in the imperialist countries of North America and Europe have superexploited the COVID-19 crisis. And the governments have managed it so poorly that the disaster created an opening for ultraright groups to mobilize. The so-called truckers’ revolt in Canada illustrates the danger.
In the U.S., the pro-Trump gang leaped into the opening, condemning any governments that restrict unvaccinated or unmasked people. Mishandling by capitalist regimes has divided the masses.
The federal government pushed to get vaccines made quickly, hoping this would allow rapid resumption of economic activity — that is, the continued accumulation of capitalist profits. Then it sabotaged the distribution of the vaccines.
Compounding this was the zigzag policies of the Trump and Biden administrations. The U.S. first restricted the availability of the vaccine. Later, when vaccines became available, some governments or bosses fired or threatened to fire workers who resisted vaccination. Similar zigzags occurred regarding personal protective equipment and masks. And tests were difficult to obtain and/or expensive, even in late 2021.
To unite the working class and all specially oppressed sectors of the population, revolutionary, anti-capitalist movements must raise demands that satisfy the needs of all sectors of the masses. The objective must be to build solidarity for a united struggle. Consider the following:
All workers and poor people need universal health care free of charge. Medical workers need adequate pay, ample staffing and guaranteed time off, even during the pandemic. This demand should include more jobs for nurses and other caregivers. Nurses’ unions have raised this issue; we should support their strikes and struggles.
Yet all capitalist governments, even those where universal health care was available, had been reducing government health care budgets over the past three decades. When COVID-19 exploded, health care systems and workers were stretched to the edge of collapse.
Pharmaceutical monopolies profited from government funding to develop vaccines, which they then patented. They used their patent monopolies to squeeze every last dollar and euro out of the world’s population in the richer countries, and they abandoned the poorer countries.
People correctly suspect foul play by pharmaceutical firms. Big Pharma operates to make profits, not to save lives. Saving lives is at best a fortunate side effect of their profit-making. This is the nature of the capitalist profit motive.
We must demand they release their patents, allowing others around the world to manufacture vaccines and assure worldwide distribution. This is the only way vaccines can be used to limit or eliminate a disease. Otherwise new variants continue to evolve.
Research and testing of the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness must be completely transparent — so that the population understands how vaccines reduce transmission and/or symptoms. Every business decision, pricing, distribution, etc., must be revealed to the public.
We must demand that the population be educated regarding how vaccines work. Access must be 100% free and simple, and everyone should be encouraged to participate based on solidarity. The biggest obstacle to solidarity is that capitalism is based on fierce competition.
In socialist Cuba the population cooperated with being vaccinated — once vaccines and syringes were available — out of solidarity with their fellow residents and confidence in their health care system. There was no need to use special coercive measures to make that happen.
COVID-19 has revealed a disastrous failure of the capitalist system. We must build solidarity among the working class to fight the pandemic by making demands that satisfy working-class needs — demands we can unite around and fight on.
It is a question of life and death.