Coronavirus: the challenges of a pandemic, a failing and sick society

Lutte Ouvrière workplace newsletter
March 16, 2020

The coronavirus epidemic, just like any other, is a challenge to society. But it also reveals just how irresponsible the capitalist organization of society is and how contemptuous the ruling class is of workers.

Faced with this catastrophe, the government has taken unprecedented measures – closing all day-care, elementary schools, high schools, universities and social meeting places like cafés, restaurants and movie theaters. Monday night, President Macron urged people to avoid all non-essential contact and to stay home. These measures are understandable.

But when Macron claims that our health comes first, there's every reason to be angry. The only thing that has come first since he’s been in office is the health of bankers and capitalist profit. And it was the same thing for his predecessors. So, today, the damage has already been done!

Look at the situation in the East of France, in cities like Mulhouse and Colmar, for example. Hospitals can't handle the increasing influx of sick people. Major operations are being put off, patients are being sent home and staff are being made to take more and more risks.

Macron can't pretend he didn’t know how critical the situation was because healthcare workers have been sounding the alarm for months. Doctors and healthcare professionals have been lacking in rural areas and working-class neighborhoods for years. Medical scientists and researchers including virus specialists have also spoken out against cuts to necessary resources. And now catastrophe has struck.

Hospital staff are on the front line. There is no doubt that ambulance drivers, health-care aides, nurses and doctors will do their best and work to exhaustion to deal with the crisis. But they're not looking to be “heroes in white coats”. All they're asking for is to have the medical equipment and staff they still don't have despite "mobilization".

What measures has the government put in place over the last two months to plan for the epidemic and provide the health-care system with respirators, hospital masks and hand-sanitizers? A week ago Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire set up an emergency action plan to help businesses and brokers. Where is the emergency action plan to meet the needs of the hospitals? Up until Monday, cars, weapons and cosmetics were still being produced while not enough hospital masks or gloves were being made.

The government is acting as if workers are immune to the Coronavirus; the drastic measures taken still don’t apply to non-essential companies.

Millions of factory workers, construction workers, employees, cashiers and cleaning staff had to go to work on Monday. How many more will still have to go into work this week? How many will have to take public transport? How many will be confined in workplaces or grocery stores with 100, 200, 500 other people? And no boss set on making a profit out of workers’ sweat and toil demands that they stand three feet apart or that their workstations be cleaned and disinfected regularly!

We go through this every day, but the Coronavirus epidemic proves yet again that in this society, when you’re an exploited worker, you’re nothing more than profit-making flesh!

And as usual in this society, the rich will be able to protect themselves much more easily. They won’t have a problem staying isolated in their big beautiful homes, and they won’t need to worry either about not having enough money on their bank accounts.

The poorest of workers, however, will likely find themselves in a dire situation. How many employees will lose the few hours of work that allowed them to get by? How many workers will have to fight for the right to take care of their children and be compensated?

Le Maire has explained that businesses will be helped and we can believe him there. But he hasn’t made any commitments concerning full state compensation for those who will be partially laid-off. They will only get 84% of their net wages. This is the type of contempt for the working class that will, sooner or later, spark huge social protests!

Today, we are the ones suffering from a system where the interests of the ruling class, the bourgeoisie, come before the interests of the working class and the majority. We are paying for the mis-management of our leaders who are driven by the laws of the market and have eyes only for profit and private property. Workers must stand up for themselves!

Non-essential companies must be shut down. Jobs and full wages, including bonuses, must be guaranteed for all workers, including temporary workers and those on short-term contracts. All necessary material and human resources must be made available to hospitals and the public health system. Protecting ourselves from the coronavirus and totally eradicating the virus of profit and the bosses’ greed are part of the same struggle.