Joint international analysis for 1st of May, 2020
”May Day should be a symbol of international solidarity – that is of a solidarity that is not limited to the frame of the national state, which always fits with the interests of the privileged minorities of that very country. Among the millions of workers who bear the yoke of slavery, there is a unity of interest, regardless of the language they speak and the standard under which they were born. But between the exploiters and the exploited of one country, there is a continuous war that cannot be resolved by any principle of authority and is rooted in the contradictory interests of the various classes. All nationalism is an ideological disguise of the true facts: it may at one time drag the great masses to its lying representatives, but it has never been able to abolish the brutal reality of the things of this world”
– (Rudolf Rocker, 1936).
1. The Global Situation
The COVID-19 pandemic has come at a time of weakening globalization, with strong dysfunctions in the mechanisms of finance, management and communication within the capitalist system, a questioning of the general criteria of governmental management, and a crisis of imperialist hegemony, accompanied by deepening tensions between the great geostrategic blocks.
Until the health crisis stopped them, popular uprisings of great importance affirmed themselves against the system. These uprisings put in question the political management of the dominant class blocks in each social formation and their operational strategies. The health crisis has also hit the system of domination very hard. Being an external factor to the functioning of the global system, it reveals the foreseeable structural, strategic and functional weaknesses and deficiencies of globalized capitalism and accelerates the degradation of the state governance.
For this reason, in various countries, we have seen how governments, especially in Great Britain and in the United States, have retracted their initial plan – that was, allowing the expansion of contagion and mass deaths, in order to create a group immunity in the population. This strategy, together with the degradation of public health systems and the harshest blows to the most disadvantaged sectors, could have led to a real social massacre. By renouncing this, it can be considered that the British and American bourgeoisies marked a political step backwards in the face of what could have provoked some social unrest.
Thus, the health crisis acts as a factor that exposes and enhances the weaknesses, imbalances and collapse factors of the system and at the same time constitutes a possible systemic innovation, a new central factor of dysfunction and blockage. In short, the pandemic is deepening a cycle of economic and social crises, which were already about to explode, and it restructures the game of the dominant blocks in their attempt to maneuver and manage their way out of this health crisis.
The capacity of the various geostrategic blocks to face the situation and overcome this moment, which could lead to the paralysis of the world economy, seems to be different. Therefore, the acceleration of the confrontation between China and the United States and the configuration of the power struggle within the new cycle will be accompanied by an unprecedented attack, all over the planet, against the living conditions of the popular classes, against their social and political rights, against all the elements of emancipation that have been conquered and strengthened, or at least preserved and maintained during the last historical period.
Interventions to unblock and relaunch the world economy imply an enormous mobilization of financial resources that will generate debt, austerity policies, new offensives against public service and a strategic attempt to increase exploitation, control and domination against the popular classes. It should be noted that the global market is clearly affected by this economic crisis – both on a material and ideological level – and we should not be surprised by the economic regionalization of various states and powers. Despite this, we must consider that globalisation will continue to be the central factor of the world economy and that the radicalisation of exploitation will be a decisive element in its configuration in the next cycle.
On a global scale, the level of debt is more than twice the world production. This crisis could also serve to liquefy debts or collect them in deferred payment, or to redesign the great international financial casino.
1.1. The European situation
As far as the European continent is concerned, we must appreciate the decisions of the Eurogroup as a partial attempt to ease the budget austerity, through increasing debt and socializing the costs – raising for instance the ceiling on health expenses and more specifically the ones about the current covid19 crisis – and through supporting national economies in order to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis – itself being sparked by the health crisis. This intervention is obviously limited by the capitalist frame that it is supposed to preserve.
We will have to thwart the foreseeable attack against the living conditions, wages and income of the popular classes, as well as the implementation of political models of control, social capping and space restrictions and models of action of the state apparatuses and capitalist command apparatuses. We will have to counter too authoritarian drifts and social control as it is dangerously growing due to the health crisis emergency and as it is reducing the impact of social action and demands.
1.2. The situation in Turkey
Just as everywhere else, the coronavirus outbreak – combined with the functioning of the capitalist system and the inadequate policies of the State – is creating a major crisis in Turkey. In this period, when all areas of social life are affected, the State ignores those who are most at risk and oppressed due to the epidemic, while this “fight” against the epidemic consists mostly in taking protective measures for the most privileged sections of the society.
Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of people are either laid off or sentenced to starvation because of unpaid leave, as a result of businesses closed under lock down practices and discontinued economic activities.
Most of the workers who are still working during the pandemic – including those in the grocery markets and large retailers, and especially health workers, who are on the frontline of this disease – do not have adequate protective equipment.
Again, political and economic powers are not concerned with whether the sections that they have impoverished are able to meet even their most basic needs. The campaigns led by the State that allow them to pretend they care about the poor are financed by the taxes these very populations have been paying for years. Of course, the charity work cannot meet the real needs: it serves to reproduce and maintain a dependence relationship rather than eliminate economic injustices.
Under such conditions, facing a bulky and ignorant State, self-organization of the people from below, from the local communities, comes into play to address the vital needs during this coronavirus crisis and fight against the government’s policies.
1.3. The situation in Latin America
Latin America is going through a peculiar situation. Countries with previous economic crises – like Argentina – or with social revolts like Chile, and others where new right-wing governments have recently taken office, such as Uruguay, all share some common features. Examples: the increase in precariousness, layoffs, unemployment insurance and hunger that plagues a significant segment of the population. Peru and Argentina are under total lock down and militarization of social life, as are Chile and Paraguay where curfews are applied. In Uruguay, social isolation is applied, although there is no compulsory lock down and little by little there are plans to resume economic activity.
In Brazil, the situation is becoming more complicated every day. We find ourselves in a scenario in which, on the one hand, living conditions are becoming more and more precarious, with unemployment on the rise, the cost of living increasing and thousands of informal and autonomous workers who cannot guarantee their daily sustenance, and on the other hand, a government that has been acting to make the measures of social isolation more flexible and putting the lives of thousands of workers at risk. The argument is that the economy cannot stop, as in several countries in the region.
The formula is simple. Without a minimum income policy that truly guarantees the livelihood of unemployed, informal and self-employed workers so that everyone can remain in social isolation, Bolsonaro guarantees the conditions for popular classes to have to choose between risking their health or going hungry. Thus, he steps away from any responsibility, attacks the governors who are defending lock down as a measure to prevent a collapse of the public Health System and creates the perfect scenario to continue with his ultra-neoliberal conservative project. In the power struggle between those at the top, Bolsonaro promotes chaos and crisis as a technique of government. For him, health and guaranteed rights do not even matter, neither does the impending collapse of the public health system. He does not act to avoid a health, social or economic crisis, he promotes it to govern more effectively and impose an ultra- neoliberal, patriarchal, conservative and racist project.
In general terms, this crisis has allowed governments to implement different populist measures, but almost all of them applying simultaneously strong right-wing policies of repression and social control. In general, corporate profits are not at risk and moreover, measures are proposed that allow the bourgeoisie to “reactivate” the economy within the neoliberal logic. The foreign debt of the Latin American countries is likely to increase, and to this must be added the drop in the international price of oil that is hitting several countries in the region, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Mexico, Brazil, etc. Some of these countries have already had their oil sector seriously dismantled or are experiencing various kinds of difficulties. We might witness in the next future the fall of some raw materials, especially in the dependent capitalist zones whereas other like cereals may strongly increase. This will have a negative impact on Latin American economies and the crisis will fall back on the popular classes.
On the other hand, the U.S., which has serious internal problems with this crisis, does not want to lose control over its “backyard” and seeks to generate and maintain a certain political, economic and social instability in the region in order to maintain social cohesion and control. Of course, this also serves several local governments, mostly aligned with the U.S.
1.4. Asian countries as an example of the attempts of mass social control
It is also important to observe what is happening in Asia, mainly in the case of China and South Korea, where extreme social control mechanisms, based on technology, are being applied. These societies have become immense panopticals but where surveillance is effective and constant and where social discipline is sought on a large scale. This model of social control seems to be “exported” to the world under the heading of “we know how to contain the pandemic”. In reality, it is a recipe for containing populations.
1.5. The situation of women
This health crisis has also deeply impacted women, particular from a popular background. The lock down measures have caused an increase of domestic violence and femicides. Besides, it has exacerbated exploitation of women in work, both in the domestic sphere – unpaid domestic work such as housework and care – and in the salaried sphere as women represent the vast majority of the workers in the sectors that are now considered essential in this crisis (health, social work, large retail, food- processing industry…).
The large number of layoffs and the flexibilization of work make employed women’s low income even more precarious. A large part of single-parent families headed by a woman are poor, given their capacity to generate income through paid work and low social benefits. This being exacerbated by unpaid domestic and care work. We must consider that in Latin America, the large number of women and children in community initiatives such as soup kitchens or popular supply networks denote this serious situation. The crisis of capital will see the need to strengthen other spaces of domination. The coming months will be crucial to analyze the impacts that may have the deepening of patriarchal violence in all areas.
To conclude, we could say that this generalised offensive is already underway. If elements of the socialization of losses are to be confirmed – meaning, to make us pay this crisis, the latter could not be contained and regulated, and the outcomes will rather be more brutal and dense. However, the offensive will be deployed and accompanying it, a potential organized response from our camp might emerge and we can guess an increase of social struggles. Many things depend on how the hegemonic core of the ruling classes evaluate the situation and what it entails of risk for capitalist system and the possibilities of social uprising.
2. The Left Wings
Within this prospective framework, we must contemplate the complexity of the moment for the left and the possibilities of a certain backward movement, be it reformist, revolutionary in intent or at least radical. But without a doubt, possibilities can be opened up for the development of a determined militant practice with an emancipatory tone at a social level and a radical critique of the system. Without exaggerating, the dominant forces in the still so-called spectrum of the left are social- liberal/”progressive”. This does not mean that they are simply direct forces of control and intervention in the service of capital. They have a tactical (or short-term) room for manoeuvre combined with a subordinate role, with strategic submission to the will of the ruling classes. These forces know that if they permanently set out to maintain an integration within the state apparatus – within the centres of power, including being in the government, even if they were required to subordinate to the right wing, they can disappear or remain in a marginal position within the political spectrum. This is the dilemma of European social democracy and Latin American progressives, for example.
That is why they are constantly accommodating themselves between their strategic subordination and a short but mandatory sensitivity to social movements and to the action of different forces that exceed social-liberalism and progressivism, including those that represent a project of a more reformist type, given that they intend to maintain their electoral base.
Another central feature of the power struggle in Europe is the general evolution of the reformist left, which was already in crisis, or at least in imbalance, before the coronavirus appeared. These forces, which range from Jeremy Corbyn of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom to Pablo Iglesias of the Podemos Party in Spain, share a common statist and governmental approach when it comes to cultural, political and strategic policies. Their central conception places all the means of action in the hand of the State apparatus and therefore recognize public electoral action as the central element of counter-power against the dominant blocks. Even before the COVID19 crisis, a tendency for their neutralization, absorption and disintegration within the core blocks of social-liberalism were already obvious. Amongst other things, these left wings showed that they are neither able nor really willing to oppose the growth of far-right forces and their growing social acceptability, not even on a cultural level. This is not new and we should know that fascism has historically been a tool for capitalism for its perpetuation in moments of crisis.
Let alone the proposals of a real opposition to neoliberalism – we could rather say revolutionary – that have been completely forgotten from the field of play, except on rare occasions. It is our task to reconstruct this space, both on the political and social levels.
3. Elements of Resistance
In the current situation, the resistance camp is complex and has very strong internal contradictions, with different social, cultural and political roots.
This camp includes a diffuse popular resistance but also faces an important disorganization in several sectors. The absence of a collective engenders fear or resignation while people are facing pressures from the hierarchy and the risk of losing their job or income. Healthcare, stopping non-essential activities and many other achievements for us and our colleagues have been won thanks to self- organization in our unions and associations of struggle. This resistance also sometimes takes shape in newly formed popular organizations or in processes of revitalization of organizations from previous traditions.
In the resistance camp, one can find currents and forces which come from very different horizons of what we could call a libertarian dynamic, based on the preeminence of the masses’ political action. The resistance camp borders on the reformist left. This entails many ambiguities; this camp includes currents and organizations with a Statist matrix whose orientation in the struggle – though sometimes sharing some self-managing, self-emancipatory, grassroots democratic overtones – is tactical, fragile, and susceptible to moving toward authoritarianism.
We are a struggling force in the archipelago of resistances and at the same time a significant creative base for popular power, self-management and direct democracy – that is for the political process of permanent advance towards libertarian communism / socialism.
In this situation, where we converge with other forces in the struggle, we seek to build and energize processes of political work, always from the popular social bases in their practices, in their demands and aspirations. Within our popular organizations and through our capacity to struggle, we promote everything that accumulates class independence and popular autonomy, we build emancipatory power, we promote popular power that escapes the apparatuses and governmental strategies within capitalism.
4. Axes of response
– Promoting and strengthening the spaces of solidarity and mutual aid of the popular classes from the neighbourhood level up to international spaces, to break with the logic that the State will protect us and to generate popular organization.
– Restoring and reinforcing strategic alliances and struggles with other political organizations and also at the social level. Especially at the latter level, with anarcho-syndicalism and alternative unionism and movements for housing, for public services (health, education, social services), anti-racism, feminism, rights of migrants, ecology…
– Preparing, with these organizations, shock plans in favor of the popular classes and plans for popular struggle after the end of confinement. In the meantime, promote actions that range from noise demonstrations to rent strikes and others.
– Defending the spaces that allows political action and self-organization against authoritarian and anti- freedom drifts now and after the lock down period
– Demanding maximum protective conditions at work, especially in the health, food, transport and public service sectors, etc. Denouncing or paralyzing the activity.
– Countering the discourses of the power by criticizing their incorrect decisions or the decisions that curb freedoms, social rights and life, and cuts in public services (especially in the health sector) that make us more vulnerable to the virus and increase its mortality.
– Confronting the discourse of hatred of the far-right forces, which seek to divide the popular classes through mechanisms of mass manipulation.
– Questioning the productivist development, the environmental devastation, animal abuse and extensive and industrial agriculture. In short, the capitalist system.
– Generalizing the use of the right to opt-out in case of danger at work or the use of the right to strike when necessary
– Socializing the pharmaceutical industry and the health system and all essential services.
– Renewing and enhancing the political horizon of production under worker control
– Enhancing the coordination, debate and common work of organized anarchism at the political level, and through our social insertion, promoting class syndicalism and other revolutionary projects at the international level.