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#Coronavirus crisis: capitalism kills. Let’s eradicate it!

France. What follows is a translation of a nine page brochure, written by Gilets Jaunes activists. A call to fight for a better, fairer society, free of profit and social classes, free of states, borders and police, free of money and exploitation… #pasderetouralanormale (#noreturntonormality)

Originally published by Marseille Infos Autonomes. Translated by Enough 14.

Two months of lockdown. Our patience is running out and our rage against this system is starting to creep in. Workers, unemployed, galley slaves and exploited, we have not been out of work during these months of generalized house arrest. We have understood that capitalism kills more than the virus, that under the pretext of a state of health emergency, authoritarian and procapitalist measures are there to continue exploiting us and trying to make us to bow our heads. But as during the months of struggle with the Yellow Vests, we will not give up. Solidarity is possible and necessary, our rage will take on new forms of struggle and we will do everything we can not to return to the “normality” of the past.

In confinement and in revolt

In early February, the COVID19 epidemic in China was in the news. A few weeks later it reached Europe. Since then, the world has been living in massive confinement.

Facilitated by globalization and the increase in trade, the pandemic has become widespread. It now kills thousands of people around the world every day. Even without being a specialist, we realize that the responsibility, beyond that which could be attributed to China, Italy, France or any other country, lies within the capitalist system.

In addition to the increase in the frequency of “natural” disasters such as floods, droughts, hurricanes, mega-fires, due to global warming and generated by the pollution of capitalist industry, pandemics are proving to be another consequence of the predatory activity of capital.

Caused, among other things, by the intensification and extension of farms to satisfy the ever-increasing search for profit for the food-processing industry or by deforestation to create new areas for forestry and energy exploitation (gas, minerals, etc.), the destruction of these natural areas increases the interface with new pathogens.

Added to all this, the globalisation of the economy, the unlimited multiplication of transport, especially air transport (more than 100,000 flights per day on average, or 8 million passengers), mass tourism and the densification of the population in urban areas, mean that the pathogen can leave the local level rapidly to reach the metropolises and then spread in a short space of time on a global scale.

In an attempt to address this “health crisis”, states have taken a range of measures. Their trial and error and cynicism are obvious: their orders and injunctions are constantly changing as they experiment with hazardous methods and a macabre profit/loss ratio.

In such catastrophic situations, it is not new that states and capitalists always manage to assert their legitimacy, their authority and to preserve their interests. This goes hand in hand with a deterioration in our living and working conditions.

After the big announcements to the profits of the enterprises (State aid to the bosses, the labour code [1] which is going to pieces…). the attacks on precarious jobs and workers are likely to continue unabated.

All we have to do is applaud the caregivers, on the front lines of this pandemic, who were demonstrating just a few months ago and we were out on the streets together. The crisis has not improved their working conditions, quite the contrary, and supportive applause, no matter how strong, will never make up for a health system that has been in a state of decline for years, subject to the strong winds of privatisation of care and financial interests.

By declaring a state of emergency and providing us with very patchy information, the state is adopting a strategy that keeps the population in a state of permanent shock. As long as this state of acceptance persists, the state will multiply its attacks and resistance, and revolts will be obstructed.

It is very difficult to know what should be done about such a pandemic. But what is certain is that the state and the capitalists, with the cynicism of those in power, are making us pay for the consequences. We have to prepare ourselves to counter the current social regression with all our power, the liberticidal measures, a return to “normal” where misery will continue to spread every day and where wars, crises and disasters will follow one another. We must prepare ourselves to fight for a profound transformation of society.

Let’s not be divided, let’s attack our real enemies together!

Since the State has decided to “manage” this health crisis, we have been told that individual responsibility is the only option to get out of this crisis, and that the only way out is to respect individual isolation measures. As if the number of deaths and the ravages of the epidemic depended solely on the behaviour of each individual.

The government and self-control put us under house arrest and the zeal of some leads them to denounce those who do not respect orders. Whistle-blowing floods the police force as exasperated citizens throw boiling water from their balconies at “reckless” people jogging or walking outside with their their dogs.

It is the people, individually, who have to make the greatest effort. Pointing the finger at the recalcitrant, often the poorest, is a good way to prepare the ground for repression. We stigmatize the young people from the social housing complexes who go outside, but being confined in a low-income housing complex is not the same thing as being isolated in a country villa! On markets and especially popular markets, people are sometimes very close, but do we really have a choice?

At the time of the Black Death, the scapegoats were Jews and lepers. Today, the government, relayed by many media outlets, accuses the poor of being irresponsible and vectors for the spread of the virus. At the same time, companies are called upon to continue their activities, workers are forced to go to work in the factories without protection and they are controlled to enforce a confinement impossible to comply with (insalubrious and cramped housing, no vehicles, difficulties in getting supplies…)!

Fines and repression rain down on the weakest, the most isolated and the most destitute. The homeless (200,000 in France), the undocumented, the precarious, the prisoners and the inhabitants of working-class neighbourhoods are being targeted. But above all for them, confinement and the impossibility to move around are the synonym of a harder, more painful survival. When you have odd jobs, working as a taxi driver, working as a temporary worker, as a seasonal worker… the confinement and police controls really prevent you from living. Without an income, the alternative is to survive by taking the risk of catching the virus or accumulating bills, losing one’s home and starving to death! Yet another increase in social inequality between the poorest and the richest!

There is a real double standard: this propaganda is marked by a profound contempt for classes! Unfortunately, we are used to it, especially in the last 2 years and the Yellow Vests movement. Political and economic leaders look down on us, they used to spew their insults at the uncultured Yellow Vests, today they go as far as forcing workers to risk getting infected with the virus, for a short-lived glory and the promise of a possible bonus. But it is true that this has never stopped capital from sleeping, think of asbestos, cancer-causing factories, pesticides…

Macron’s great incantation on national unity to face the pandemic is just another decoy! How is it possible to think that, even in times of pandemic, their interests and ours are the same?!
The State is giving us the beautiful discourse of a sacred union, does not hesitate to use the word “war” and to wish for martial law (curfews, army interventions, etc.). It transforms health care workers into war heroes who need nothing, neither wage increases nor the resources to deal with the epidemic. It is well known that medals and statues have never fed or saved anyone!

The pandemic is international (as the name implies). It will not be national measures or a so-called patriotic unity – which, by the way, has always served the richest! – that will get us out of this crisis.
Social regression measures (health emergency law and decrees), border closures and calls for national unity, liberticidal measures (curfews, planned telephone controls, police and military deployment, use of drones, etc.): all this is in line with an already disastrous economic situation that will get even worse.

Let there be no mistake. Individual guilt serves above all to hide the responsibilities of capitalism and the negligence of states: we can see that they prefer repression over health prevention…

However, claiming the “great return of the state” as a solution to this disastrous management of the current health crisis is meaningless: the state is what it is, a tool at the service of the dominant class! It will remain the servile manager of the economic interests of the rich, of those who own the enterprises, and under no circumstances a welfare state that would protect us from epidemics, from the greed of the evil moneylenders, from misery.

But mistrust of the state sometimes leads to a conspiracy-theorist view of the world and particularly of the current situation. Let us not be overwhelmed by fear! Let us not fall into the trap of theories that are too easy and far-fetched to try to find an explanation for this pandemic (it is the United States, China or the Islamic state that sent this virus, or it is 5G that pollutes our cells by infecting us, or it is a trick by the pharmaceutical industries to sell a new vaccine – even if it is obvious that they will benefit from it).

It is possible for a virus to escape from a lab, but that would be just a series of human incompetencies linked to the arrogance of bureaucrats and scientists who believe they are in control. No state has any interest in such a pandemic, simply because it puts a stop to consumption and economic activity and thus capitalist profits.

We must have a rational analysis of the world around us, based on factual elements that we can identify to fight the system. By distracting us from the real causes, these simplistic ideas only distract us from social struggles, deprive us of perspectives and isolate us.

Thinking of unveiling the mysteries of a capitalist society, yet quite transparent in its objectives, they only designate scapegoats (foreigners, Jews, freemasons…) or point out external and inaccessible targets (extraterrestrials, CIA, Mossad, RG [2], all-powerful secret societies…).

So let us not take the risk of a war of all against all, where new hatreds would spread as in other epidemic episodes. Our enemy is advancing without even bothering to slow down.

In the face of these attacks, which are still in their early stages, it is more than ever necessary to show solidarity with each other, let us not let ourselves be divided! Our solidarity is our strength and the only way to change the present and the future!

Facing the economic crisis and social breakdown: Revolution!

This health crisis does not arise in serene skies. The economic crisis of 2008 has gone this way, endangering the global banking system, plunging several countries into a violent recession (slower economic growth and falling GDP) and throwing millions of people into poverty. This crisis was only a continuation of another deeper one that dates back to 1974; the oil shock was then prolonged by a crisis of overproduction (production increasing to generate ever higher profits, which eventually overwhelmed consumers’ financial possibilities, with profits stagnating, causing bankruptcy and unemployment. In the face of these crises, government policies are attacking our living conditions: in order to allow the actors of the economy to maintain their profits, the cost of labour has to be reduced, direct and indirect wages have to be cut (social aid, social security, pensions…).

In France, successive governments all followed this logic of austerity. They lowered employer contributions and subsidized companies ( for example, CICE: 100 billion tax credit) in order to increase profits and shareholder dividends. In order to “balance” the state budget (as a consequence of the billions granted to the banks following the 2008 crisis in particular), they have cut social benefits and redistributions and spending on public services. It should be noted that in passing all public services that were profitable were optimised and then privatised. In order to reduce debt, governments take from workers, the unemployed, pensioners, temporary workers, poor students… and continue to multiply gifts to capitalists!

In particular, these austerity policies have affected the resources made available to hospitals. The OECD data speak for themselves. Whereas in 1997, France had 4.35 hospital beds (excluding psychiatric care) per 1,000 inhabitants, in 2017 it only had 3.1 per 1,000. This is less than Greece, not to mention Germany, which has twice as many (6 per 1 000). In South Korea, the rate rose over the same period from 3.6 to 7.1 beds per 1,000 inhabitants. In terms of the number of doctors, the ratio is no better: France has 3.4 doctors per 1 000 inhabitants, while Germany has 4.3 and Austria 5.2.

An organized shortage that now results in cruel shortages in hospitals and medical deserts in rural, outlying areas and poor cities. We are paying for the budgetary restrictions applied to the health system by all successive governments for several decades.

Our solidarity makes up for the negligence of a state which, in a drive for profitability, has deliberately destroyed the systems put in place to prevent such health crises. For example, the Emergency Preparedness and Response Facility (Eprus) set up in 2007 following the H5N1 crisis, which was supposed to provide masks and protective equipment, was dismantled in mid-2010.

Unfortunately, this is not about to get any better: while the pandemic is still in progress and not knowing what form “deconfinement” will take, we are already seeing the dawn of an economic crisis at least on the scale of that of 1929.

Workers are still partially confined. Production is idling. Entire sectors are at a standstill. Borders are closed. The movement of goods is impeded. Stock exchanges are falling all over the world. The GDP has already lost more than 8 points in France, a drop not seen since the Second World War!

States are pulling out their wallets to prevent the collapse of the economy and the financial system. Trump announces a $2000 billion plan. The ECB (European Central Bank) nearly 1000 billion euros, the French government already more than 100 billion. The economy must be safeguarded whatever it costs!

This money will primarily be used to bail out shareholders and banks’ portfolios. It will be stolen from our work and our pockets!

The management of short-time work and technical unemployment is part of this. The government is organising a business support fund (already one billion for this month) to deal with short-time working or technical unemployment. That is to say that the state (our taxes) pays for technical unemployment instead of the companies that will be refunded… It is not to offer us a holiday with all expenses paid but to keep us in a position to go back to work as soon as they demand it. And in the end, we’ll be the ones who will pay!

And at the same time Macron, the government and the whole apparatus of the state ordered to continue to produce goods. Sectors of activity have either stopped or have experienced major slowdowns. Obviously those who could not sell their services due to the confinement of the population (restaurants, hotels, to a lesser extent transport…), but also many “non-essential” production sectors such as the automobile or aeronautics industry, construction… To limit the impact of these numerous production stoppages on the economy, the state and the employers are trying to get us back to work as soon as possible. Some sectors have been forced to work even though the minimum health requirements were not met ( truck drivers). Many struggles are being waged, to at least obtain a guarantee of conditions that allow workers to be safe. In the absence of collective combativeness, it was possible to see some of the bosses getting the workers to sign discharges in the event of contamination before returning to work. The agricultural sector has experienced labour problems. Accustomed to using workers from poor European countries or undocumented workers whom it underpays, containment has resulted in a lack of such workers. The state has therefore called for volunteers and talked about requisitioning refugee applicants, the very people who are forbidden to work in normal times.

The orders issued on March 25, 2020, and subsequently, “adjust” the labour law! In order to face the crisis, they allow us to increase the pressure on workers and to reduce their rights: increase the number of authorized overtime hours and decrease their remuneration, increase the daily working hours, decrease paid holidays, give employers the freedom to impose rest days… They seek to lower the “cost” of work (our salaries what!) to maintain their profits ( besides the dividends continue to drop despite the global crisis). In the end, it is our incomes that will stagnate, the pace and time of work will increase, and with inflation (rising prices), it will become more and more difficult for us to survive. And to top it all off, they will further limit social rights (unemployment, pensions, family allocations).

In other words, we will be pressed to the limit to make up the deficits. This is a new stage in what we have known for at least 20 years. Is all this really going to stimulate the economy? What is certain is that it will increase competition between capitalists for an ever fiercer race for profits (as in times of war the most scavengerous will take advantage of it) and favour the concentration of capital, that is to say the bankruptcy of the smallest companies, and the accumulation of profit in the hands of the biggest. The state accompanying this process essentially comes to aid big business. The price to be paid will still be health and more generally our living conditions as workers or the unemployed!
Once the epidemic is over, there will be after-effects.

Without any reaction on our part, the state will not hesitate to maintain all these measures that are making our lives more and more difficult. Because, once again, its goal is simple: to revive business, to maintain the profits of shareholders and bosses, to ensure the continuity of the capitalist system.

In the planetary chaos caused by this pandemic, states and capitalists are nevertheless trying to save their profits and take advantage of the health and economic crisis to develop new forms of exploitation: telework, atomisation of workers and social distancing, use of short-time work,). At least not to lose too much. In the “next world”, the crisis having reshuffled many cards, it will be a question of each state and each capitalist to get out of it better than the others. The stakes being high, they will have no scruples about violently increasing the pressure on all the workers, the unemployed or the retired of the planet.

More and more of us are already under increasing pressure every day. The pandemic and the emerging economic crisis will only worsen our living conditions. States are worried about possible uprisings that could be triggered when the containment is released (a territorial intelligence report alerts the government about this possibility). In recent years, revolts have been breaking out more and more regularly throughout the world (Hong Kong, Iraq, South America, Algeria, France…). Misery is turning into rage. In France, the Yellow Vests movement has shown how, together and determined, we can be strong and creative. The capitalist system is not as strong as it would like us to believe. This pandemic sadly reveals this to us.

Only we have the capacity to bring it down and imagine another society, one of solidarity and equality.

Down with permanent social control

States are well aware that such setbacks in our living conditions, especially when implemented so swiftly, are bound to provoke resistance and revolt.

They must prepare measures to contain these popular reactions. It’s a good thing: capitalism knows how to make fire. As they have done on other occasions (terrorism, wars…), the current health crisis offers them a new opportunity to strengthen and experiment with its mechanisms for controlling populations.

Many of the measures in the current state of emergency are much clearer when one understands the real objectives of governments: to maintain the economy at the expense of the population and to strengthen law enforcement to ensure that everyone accepts this priority. In the face of the coronavirus, there is more and more monitoring, and still little testing. This is the reality of a state of emergency where health measures are being translated into safety measures.

A few weeks ago, being at a demonstration on a Saturday afternoon could result in a criminal offence. Today, with containment and a state of “sanitary” emergency, all we have to do is to leave our homes and we are outlawed. Curfew measures are multiplying without anyone knowing exactly what they are for. The idea of population control by tracking telephones is being seriously considered; it has been applied in several countries (China, Italy, South Korea, Japan, etc.). Electronic bracelets to guarantee quarantine are being studied. The use of drones, which until now had only been seen in cities or during Yellow Vest demonstrations, is increasing. What is happening is not a bad science fiction movie!

The sanitary usefulness of these liberticidal measures is rather relative: there is a real double standard.

On the one hand, any sociability with family, friends, sports or associations is prohibited. Even a simple walk is limited to a restricted perimeter and is not allowed to be taken by more than one person.

On the other hand, workers are sent unprotected to the working floor, to the steering wheel or to the fields. The homeless are hunted down and migrant camps evicted without alternatives or are largely insufficient. Millions of people are confined in spaces that are far too small (at least from a health point of view, both viral and mental) while Brigitte Macron complains about her confinement in the Elysée Palace!

The State slows down, blocks or imposes a control on all forms of solidarity, all initiatives. The slightest distribution of food must be validated by the prefecture! Yet solidarity could greatly improve the daily lives of many people, especially the most precarious and fragile.

Macron’s warlike, even militaristic discourse is indicative of the perspective in which he places himself. The war that these rulers are waging remains above all a social war against our class, that of the exploited and the “self-exploited”. Preparing the ground with martial rhetoric heralds nothing less than the ferocious repression of all resistance, individual or collective.

It may seem difficult to imagine being able to demonstrate, to gather, to discuss with others in order to build struggles at the present time. However, we will have no choice. Beyond the first phase of confinement, measures of social distancing will continue to be necessary. In spite of this, getting together, gathering and organizing will become a necessity: no one is made to live in confinement or to accept more and more exploitation! They will not stop us from fighting! Let’s organize ourselves for the post-confinement period! #pasderetouralanormale (#Noreturntonormality)

Social control has its limits: ours!

These containment measures isolate us and make us distrustful. Others can carry the virus… Fear is in full swing and is largely fuelled by political and media discourses.

In this situation we see the development of new types of social relationships that are potentially even more deadly: isolation, fear, xenophobia, atomized work… Solidarity is put in difficulty and with it our ability to fight. But this situation also shows the need for mutual aid, especially for the most precarious and destitute. It is on this strength built on necessity that we must rely to resist and hope for a better world.

Let us refuse the perpetuation of social control, let us multiply the struggles, let us participate in those that exist! Let us prepare for the social explosion of the post-confinement era!

How can we fight and show solidarity in this health emergency?

Faced with this we have little choice, we cannot let it happen. Either we will suffer more and more misery, exploitation and repression, or we will resist and take up the struggle again.

In Italy, Spain, the United States and France, although we do not hear about it, a number of withdrawals, walkouts and even wildcat strikes have flourished in factories that refused to provide security for workers. In shipyards and construction, in the big production centres of the car industry, in Amazon’s warehouses, in delivery vans and bicycles, in garbage dumps… many people did not wait for the unions to demand more protection and better conditions.

In the south of Italy, undermined by unemployment and poverty and particularly weakened by containment and epidemics, self-reductions (leaving a supermarket with several people without paying) have been organised. In several sectors, regions or countries, there is growing discontent, particularly among the poorest social classes, for whom containment is simply not bearable. Rent strikes are being called for in several countries, particularly in the United States, as well as the refusal to pay bills. On almost every continent, revolts break out in prisons in the face of a disastrous situation both from a health and a purely human point of view. And in working-class neighbourhoods, where economic and police pressure is at a high level, revolt rumbles and begins to break out.

Struggles exist, let’s start taking part in them now!

Let’s start with the many networks we have built, the solidarity we have put in place, the battles we were fighting before this pandemic. We must fight this struggle together, in the manner of the Yellow Vests movement, detached from specific and corporatist interests but for a global questioning of society. Against the attacks on social welfare, labour laws, the shortcomings of the health system or the abandonment in which most of our elders find themselves, we must not act separately. It is through a global struggle that aims at a profound transformation of society that we will be able to put an end to capitalist barbarity and its atrocities (pandemic, ecological disaster, war, unemployment, exploitation, misery, dictatorship… unfortunately the list is much longer!).

Undergoing such a disruption of our lives can at the same time allow us to question our daily life: the “normality” of the boss who yells at us, the “normality” of going to work to enrich the boss or of the absurd spectacle widespread in the media, the acceptance of government policies, the resignation in the face of misery… This observation can lead us collectively to consider other modes of social organization.
For the time being, we need means to break isolation beyond confinement, inventive ways of organizing ourselves taking into account the health measures that are likely to be prolonged…

It is essential today to circulate information about our living and working conditions, our family and personal situations ( domestic violence, moral and psychic difficulties, the need for food, the weakening of the right of abortion…) and wherever possible to organize struggles against the attacks we are the targets of.

In the immediate future, it is possible to collectively organize demonstrations, to transport products to isolated people, to organize or participate in lootings for the most destitute… And why not collective requisitions of essential products, self-reductions? Given the current situation, many of us are finding it even harder than usual to meet ends until the end of the month. In some countries, rent or bill payment strikes are taking place. Let us also put these means of action into practice!

Let us keep ourselves informed about what our neighbours are going through, what is happening in this or that factory, business, farm… in order to find collective ways to fight against forced or unpaid overtime, against the obligation to take our days off, against the lack of protection at work or the obligation to work. But it is also a question of the payment of bonuses, rates and wages. It is all the more up to us to fight for our working conditions as we cannot even hope to count on the closed Prud’hommes [3] or the trade union centres, which are almost inaudible at the moment and ready to make many concessions at the expense of the workers in order to relaunch the economy and production and thus regain their role as “social partners”.

In this situation that has been going on for too long we must continue to reflect collectively, to exchange views on the situation and to look for opportunities for struggles and resistance. Until we can meet again, it is possible to organize virtual assemblies on the internet (or by radio), or even physical assemblies from balcony to balcony, as for example in Italy. The diffusion of reflections and criticisms is also important in the current context (distribution of leaflets in the mailboxes of one’s neighbourhood, one’s block, pasting of posters, posting of banners)… Reinvesting in the street while respecting social distancing can also be attempted (demonstrations in cars, on bicycles, rallies…). And as soon as the confinement is over, let’s resume the fight!

If solidarity, vital and immediate struggles are indispensable today, we must already think about the “after”. Let us point out right now the contradictions of this system which, during this health crisis, appear even more violently.

Between on the one hand the enormous means of production, the quantity of wealth produced, the technical means, the scientific knowledge and on the other hand the incapacity to face a sanitary crisis which remains low compared to other epidemics in history (Black Death, Spanish flu…), the contradiction is striking! And it is only in the image of the social organization and the distribution of wealth…

Capitalism is seriously damaging health

We are not just at war with a virus but with a system that is incapable of fighting it and that has fostered it. Once again, if “Macron wages war on us and his police too”, the most horrible virus is the capitalist virus! Behind the health crisis lies social war and the crisis of capital. And it is for us, workers, unemployed, pensioners… to wage and win it, for a better, fairer society, free of profit and social classes, free of states, borders and police, free of money and exploitation…

“We’re here and we’ll be always here”

#pasderetouralanormale (#noreturntonormality)

GJ’s, revolting and confined, motivated and in solidarity

gj_ales@riseup.net
defcolgj@riseup.net

Notes

[1] The French labor code (code du travail) is the national which governs work and labor relations in the country. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_labour_law

[2] The Direction Centrale des Renseignements Généraux (Central Directorate of General Intelligence), often called Renseignements Généraux (RG), was the intelligence service of the French police, answerable to the Direction Générale de la Police Nationale (DGPN), and, ultimately, the Ministry of the Interior. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Direction_centrale_des_renseignements_g%C3%A9n%C3%A9raux

[3] Prud’homme m (plural prud’hommes). A master craftsman or expert. https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/prud%27homme#Derived_terms



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