The Covid 19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of human life. It has had a dev-astating effect on people’s physical and mental health, social relations and communities, our livelihoods, and freedom to move about. It has also significantly curtailed our ability to organise effective political protests and strengthened the hand of the State.
It has highlighted the fundamental problems of global capitalism and its need for continued growth and profit. The State’s support for those goals, has been behind the origin, spread, and tragic consequences of the disease. The need for revolution has never been so apparent.
However, as we struggle to fight back, the weaknesses of the working-class movement have also been revealed. We have seen a mounting death toll, health services overwhelmed, key workers treated as expendable, and the economic costs borne by those least able to afford it, yet resistance has been negligible. Nevertheless, the pandemic has also brought out actions and sensibilities that are key to social transformation: solidarity, mutual aid, self-organisation, and internationalism.
Covid-19 and other zoonotic diseases that have emerged over the last few decades are caused by the spread of global capitalism. As capitalism takes over more and more land for logging, mining, and agribusiness, wild animals are losing their habitats and com-ing into contact with humans, creating the potential for diseases to ‘spillover’ from other species to humans. This situation is exacerbated by the demand for exotic animal meat by the growing middle and upper classes around the world.
We are living in a world that for most people is broken and that has broken most people. It is not a god given world, but one that has been constructed by those in power and that has left most people mired in deprivation. Under COVID-19, this world has sunk to new lows.
All is not lost though. There has historically been a section within the progressive movement – in different parts of the world and in South Africa – based around forms of radically democratic socialism that has not only tapped into the righteous anger of the working class, but has also sought to create a home and sense of belonging for people based on progressive values and principles such as mutual aid, solidarity and even love. If we want a better world, we need to revive the popularity of the types of politics, ethics, values, principles and practices that formed the essence – at their best – of such movements and update it for the context of the 21st century.
We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the Mapuche people who are currently experiencing another episode of persecution and repression by the racist and colonial State of Chile. The State of Chile is aided by far-right groups and militias.
For more than 90 days, nearly 30 Mapuche political prisoners have been on a hunger strike demanding immediate freedom or at least a change to precautionary measures for Covid-19. The review of judicial processes is still underway. Their demands: the end of the criminalisation of the Mapuche people, the repeal of the Anti-Terrorism Law (which was inherited from the dictator Augusto Pinochet), and the application of ILO Convention 169 (art. 7, 8, 9 and 10) whose omission from the State’s law resulted in the serious health condition of Machi Celestino Córdova. Córdova’s condition is a result of several hunger strikes protesting the repression of Mapuche spirituality by the State and its colonial institutions.
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it often seems as if we are stuck in a dystopian movie. In this movie death is stalking us, hospitals overflow with the sick and dying, and the grave diggers are at work. We know more victims will soon die as the folly of millions of workers being forced by circumstances to return into cramped mines, banks, factories and warehouses is so evident. Those that are no longer needed by the billionaires who own the companies are marshalled daily by the police and military dishing out violence and on occasion, humiliation, to underline their power and the power of their bosses.
The trauma of it all has led many people to seek solace in fiction or conspiracy theories. It can be morbidly comforting to believe in fantasy in times of strife. We, however, fall into such fantasies at our own peril. When we try and deny reality and escape from it – even if we are traumatised – we are left powerless. We miss that all of this has to do with the workings and power relations that define our everyday lives – the very workings and power relations of capitalism and state systems.
”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).