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The global pandemic, the class struggle, and the tasks of the Socialist Equality Party

This resolution was adopted unanimously by the membership of the Socialist Equality Party in the United States at its Sixth National Congress, which was held online from July 19 to July 24, 2020. 

Part 1

1.The COVID-19 pandemic is a trigger event in world history that is accelerating the already far-advanced economic, social, and political crisis of the world capitalist system. It is creating conditions for an immense intensification of the class struggle on an international scale. The working class is confronted with a crisis for which there is no progressive solution, apart from a revolutionary struggle against capitalism, leading to the conquest of state power, the establishment of democratic control by the working class over the economy, the replacement of the anarchy of the market with scientific planning, the ending of the nation-state system, and the building of a global socialist society dedicated to equality, the elimination of poverty and all forms of oppression and discrimination, a massive rise in the standard of living and the level of social culture, and the protection of the environment.

2. In defining the pandemic as a “trigger event,” the World Socialist Web Site has compared it to the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand on June 28, 1914, which initiated a chain of events culminating in the outbreak of World War I. “Had the assassination not taken place,” the WSWS wrote, “it is doubtful that war would have come in August. But sooner or later, perhaps in the winter of 1914 or in the following year, the economic and geopolitical contradictions of European and global capitalism and imperialism would have led to a military conflagration. The assassination accelerated the historical process, but it acted upon preexisting and highly inflammable socioeconomic and political conditions.

3.While the specific conditions that produced the coronavirus have an accidental and contingent character, the response to the pandemic has been determined by the pre-existing conditions of capitalist crisis and the interests of the ruling class. The capitalist class has continued and intensified the same parasitic economic relations and social policies that it employed during the previous period.

4.When World War I began, it was assumed by all belligerents that it would be over relatively quickly. However, the conflict dragged on and on, year after year, because the capitalist ruling elites, who dictated government policy, considered the sacrifice of the lives of millions of workers an acceptable cost in achieving their geostrategic interests in the conflict. It required the intervention of the working class—in the form of the 1917 Russian Revolution and a wave of revolutionary struggles throughout Europe—to force an end to the carnage. In the present situation, the greatest obstacles to implementing an effective response to the pandemic are the economic and geo-strategic interests of the capitalist class, which has benefited from the crisis. The US and global stock markets continue to rise—and are now once again approaching record levels—along with the number of infections and deaths. The reckless return to work in late May—before effective control over the spread of the virus had been achieved—was dictated entirely by the need of the corporate-financial elite to resume the untrammeled exploitation of the working class to generate profits.

5. The situation is critical. The pandemic is spiraling out of control. As of mid-July, more than 13 million people globally have been infected. The death toll is nearly 700,000. New cases are at record highs, and the virus is accelerating rapidly throughout Latin America, the Middle East and South Asia.

6. The epicenter of the pandemic is in the United States. More than 4.5 million have been infected, or more than one out of every 100 people in the country. New cases are more than 70,000 a day. Hospitals in Florida, Texas and Arizona are at or over capacity, and nurses are running out of protective equipment. By the end of the summer, the official death toll will be in the area of 250,000 to 350,000—more than twice the US combat deaths in World War I, the Vietnam War and the Korean War combined.

7. Alongside the spread of the pandemic, there is a growing social crisis. Globally, the United Nations estimates that 265 million more people are at risk of starvation as a result of the pandemic. The International Labour Organization anticipates a loss of income for workers of up to $3.4 trillion. In the United States, tens of millions remain unemployed, despite the end of lockdown measures, and 100,000 small businesses have closed permanently.

8. The disastrously inept, disorganized and inhumane response of the United States to the pandemic has exposed not only the incompetence and criminal character of the Trump administration, but also the political and moral bankruptcy of American capitalism and its ruling elite, whose social physiognomy has been shaped by the most extreme and truly criminal growth of “a whole system of swindling and cheating by means of corporation promotion, stock issuance and stock speculation.” On this basis, and on a scale that even Marx could hardly have imagined possible, the ruling class has carried out, for the last 40 years, a policy of redistributing wealth from the working class to the rich.

9. The massive inflation of the stock market through speculation and financialization has produced unprecedented levels of social inequality, with three individuals possessing more wealth than the bottom half of the population.

10. “How long will it be until the pandemic is brought under control?” This is a question being asked by billions of people. The usual response is that the pandemic will continue until an effective vaccine is developed. This fatalistic answer is premised on the assumption that the COVID-19 crisis is almost exclusively a medical problem. What is left out are the social and political dimensions of the fight against the pandemic. As the uprising of the working class was necessary to bring an end to World War I, the class conscious intervention of the working class, in a struggle against capitalism, is necessary to create the conditions for an effective social response to the disease. Even if a vaccination is developed in the near future, and even if it provides long-term immunity, which is not guaranteed, its distribution will be subject to the profit interests of the corporations and the geostrategic conflicts between the major capitalist powers. Moreover, the pandemic’s containment will not bring the social and economic crisis to a conclusion. As was the case in the aftermath of World War I, the pandemic will leave deep scars and have long-lasting consequences. There will be no return to the conditions, as bad as they already were, that existed before its outbreak. The economic, social and political crisis will develop on the basis of the conditions created by the pandemic. The scope and intensity of the class struggle will increase, not diminish.

11. In justifying its reckless reopening of the economy, the capitalist media proclaimed: “The cure [the shutdown] must not be worse than the disease.” In reality, the pandemic is a symptom. The disease is capitalism. The necessary treatment is the international class struggle. The cure is socialism.

12. To understand the present situation and chart a course for the future, it is necessary to review how the crisis has developed in the country that has become the global center of the pandemic, the United States.

Source, references:


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