On April 18 it was one month since the government led by Piñera decreed a state of emergency for 90 days following the spread of the coronavirus among the population: in this way the democratic dictatorship of capital that had been exposed by the proletarian revolt that began on October 18 was openly formalized, with the excuse of protecting the people. Since then, the antagonism between the capitalist economy and human needs has become apparent, and millions of people have been able to experience for themselves that, in a society which is not organised for the communal satisfaction of human needs, the spread of a virus has the character of a misfortune for the working population forced to have to choose between death by virus or death by hunger, between falling ill and not paying their rent. The COVID-19 has come to deepen the contradictions of capitalist life, accelerating the process of widespread economic crisis and recession that had been brewing since 2008. The coronavirus, in fact, is no more lethal than other diseases, but its importance and its effect on world capitalist society can be explained by the global context in which its appearance is inserted. In reality, the greatest detonator of the high number of deaths and infections is none other than the capitalist social organization, and this applies not only to this new virus, but can be generalized to the millions of deaths that each year occur in the world from curable diseases in a society in which a rich person will never die from having too much money, but a poor person will always die from not having it.
Originally published by Vamos hacia la vida. Translated by Enough 14.
The truth is that the most imminent catastrophe has long been looming over our heads, of which there have been several surprising tests to which we have not reacted with the same alarm as we do to COVID-19. The ocean is a plastic garbage dump, radioactive material is constantly accumulating, animal species are becoming massively extinguished, the most fundamental forests and jungles to the biosphere are burning, and the Arctic is melting at a rate far exceeding scientists’ annual estimates. In the Chilean region, at the height of the pandemic, the general manager of the Santiago Chamber of Commerce perfectly embodies the system’s homicidal logic by declaring that “the economy also brings health” and that “we cannot kill all economic activity to save lives. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, the democratic dictatorship of capital has been in line with the manager’s reasoning, and its strategy of “progressive quarantines” is nothing more than a business administration of death, in which an indeterminate number of people are condemned to contagion until the government entity considers that enough has been done, and only then does it apply quarantine to the sector where the greatest number of confirmed infections have been detected. In fact, they are already preparing for an early opening of large-scale commerce and retail, and even anticipate preparing a return to face-to-face classes in schools during the month of May.
However, when necessity becomes the rule, all that is useless is abandoned. The pandemic has also given depth to the collective experience of the months of revolt, and the proletariat of the Chilean region has been able to experience in a concrete way that a world without schools and without useless jobs is possible. This is why capitalists, rulers, bureaucrats and police are desperate to get us back to the normality of capital (they are now officially calling it the “new normality”), to incessant work and confinement in indoctrination centers. However, they have not been able to avoid the inevitable and capitalist normality has been fundamentally disrupted, forcing us at last to live our own lives, without the thousands of subterfuges that, more wrong than right, sustained the unsustainable. And this life has hit us with all its reality, with all the sweetness and unpleasantness it may have. A space has been opened up to resolve our own contradictions that until yesterday were hidden from a non-existent future, absorbed by the march of merchandise, or drowned in alcohol or one of the hundreds of other drugs and distractions that capital produces for beings that have been reduced to the most shameful infantilization and dependency. On the other hand, the increased demand for psychologists via “streaming” shows the aberrance of a normality in which thousands of people hide their inner discomfort under the submission to a frenetic and uninterrupted routine, maintaining psychological organization at the cost of crushing their humanity. It is not worth having sanity that is maintained at the price of constant escape; it is preferable to have a madness that has its feet firmly on the ground, and that is precisely what the pandemic has brought: it has put people to think seriously, perhaps for the first time, about their own lives.
This fact does not escape the sight and the conscience of those who dominate us by parasitizing from our lives, and day and night conspire to prevent us from spending too much time outside the sheepfold of work, distraction and consumption. In the last few weeks the media have not stopped talking about the economic crisis that will result from the partial paralysis of production and mass consumption, and they are already giving the impression that it will be the working class that will have to pay the consequences of the crisis of capital. In this sense, the IMF predicts that Latin America will be one of the regions most affected by the crisis, and in its report Chile stands out as one of the most damaged economies. In the same vein, in his April 19 speech Piñera made the new government offensive on the proletariat official by declaring that we will have to adjust our daily activity to the aforementioned “new normality,” predicting in advance that the virus will remain around for at least two years. Let us not deceive ourselves: it is not the virus that has caused these changes, but it has simply been the trigger of some transformations that were already visible with the outbreak of proletarian revolts in several continents. The state of emergency will not end with the end of the pandemic, neither in Chile nor anywhere else in the world. The world capitalist class has taken a step and will not turn back.
In the face of this new historical scenario, we must prepare ourselves in body and spirit to fight, because those who govern our lives by embodying the logic of capital are willing to drag our children onto the streets, to abandon our parents to their fate and to sacrifice the lives that are necessary to perpetuate the deadly march of the economy. And they are doing so. In this respect, the virus has accomplished what the revolt could not: it places us at the crossroads that secretly structures the totality of our lives: the economy or life. The proletariat in the Chilean region has accomplished great achievements during the revolt, but a part of the working class dressed in yellow was defending the neighborhood supermarket and pharmacy. Well, now that the government is preparing to force a return to schools and jobs, and the supermarket and pharmacy are showing no mercy in charging more and more for essential products, the certainty is beginning to grow in many people that when the time comes we will have to take by force what they sell us in exchange for our blood. It depends on us, because what is at stake is historical. Either the capitalists and their henchmen impose the state of exception that places the economy above life, or we impose our own state of exception. Either all the truths that are coming to light are bringing it to an end, or we go into the slaughterhouse together.
Against any perspective of the collapse of capitalism resulting from this virus or from any other present or future catastrophe, we consider self-emancipation of proletarianized humanity as the only final crisis of capitalism. And not by chance, nor because this assertion corresponds better to our particular desires, but because the collapse of capital necessarily has to occur as the product of the confrontation and annihilation of its own internal contradictions, of which the relationship of exploitation of wage-earning humanity is the fundamental one. Capitalist society has survived – and will survive strengthened – any crisis or social movement that does not eliminate its fundamental bases: social classes, merchandise, capital, value, wage labour, democracy and the state.
In other words, to bring to reality the most clear slogans of the revolt, to conquer a life worth living, the proletariat of the Chilean region will have to adopt the radical slogan: revolution or extinction. From now on, injustice will become more and more scandalous, because this virus is the first of several increasingly severe crises to come, in which economic depression and the degradation of the material conditions of life of proletarian humanity will converge, with a deepening of the effects of the capitalist devastation of nature. So far, the party of the capitalist order has been able to withstand the onslaught of the proletarian storm, and has remained in power without even playing the card of Piñera’s resignation. Moreover, in the midst of the pandemic and the state of emergency, it has suspended the April referendum indefinitely, a maneuver that allowed the bourgeoisie to gain time and energy during the summer while the majority of the proletariat lost theirs in the hope of winning an improvement in their living conditions by approving a new constitution. In other words, not only is the state far from being overtaken, but it is showing that it has been partially strengthened during the health crisis and is already announcing its future offensive in the present. However, in the midst of a general crisis of capital the state has no concrete improvement to sell to the proletariat, and repression has proved to be its most effective language in dealing with the outbreak of rebellion.
The doors of change are open, and the class struggle will be the determining element of everything that happens from now on. If the revolt has a future beyond the democratic limits, if it is capable of becoming a revolution, it will depend only on the capacity of proletarianized humanity to realize a common way out of the barbarism to which capital drags us.
Vamos hacia la vida, April 2020.
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