Covid and the working class: questions from our readers

8 February, 2021 · News> Global situation

We are publishing some of the questions raised by readers following the communiqué we released yesterday.

Wouldn’t the fact that the Chinese bourgeoisie, unlike its competitors, has opted to curb the pandemic suggest that its system is better for the workers

Textile workers in China wearing face masks and protective anti-contagion clothing.

No, not at all.

The fact that the Chinese bourgeoisie knows how to be, in certain cases, more strategic, that it is capable of thinking about how to defend its interests in the longer term, that is, defending the needs of national capital, does not make those interests less opposed to those of the workers and Humanity

  1. It makes little sense to rank which expressions are more reactionary in a system that is reactionary as a whole… especially if doing so can generate the false – and suicidal – idea that the differences between the various bourgeoisies, their political apparatuses and the national capitals they support could justify politically supporting some of them over others. That is the road leading to recruitment for war.
  2. The Chinese regime in particular, from its origins is the result of the world counterrevolution in China. If anything has characterized it historically, it has been its absolute mercilessness towards workers. Today, as always, the Chinese state bourgeoisie starves millions of workers while persecuting any form of self-organization, it brings social controls and monitoring to paroxysm and develops forms of mass repression which are direct heirs of the stalinist gulag.
  3. If anything shows the strategy with which it confronts the pandemic – after some initial denialist reflexes – is that it can elaborate less more middle and long-term-oriented responses than its competitors. But less short-termism does not mean less anti-human plans. At all times it was guided by no other consideration than the calculation of the impact on the productive chains and accumulation, nor did it have any other goal than to maintain its capacity for domination. Is that a relief for the workers? In this case, that capacity to overcome immediatism has saved lives -in the process hardening control and repression- in others, the consequences will be the opposite. The Chinese state has given long-term encouragement to quite a few wars in Asia and Africa and on its own borders it threatens to generate new, terribly bloody wars.
  4. Finally, the fact that the Chinese bourgeoisie defends its national capital better than, say, the Spanish or Argentine bourgeoisie, does not mean anything good for the workers. For the Chinese bourgeoisie knowing how to be in certain cases more strategic, that it is, capable of thinking in the longer term how to defend its interests -which are the needs of national capital- does not make those interests less opposed to those of the workers and Humanity.
Read also:
To Understand China's Last 70 Years (in Spanish)

What do you think of anti-vaccine movements and the debate about mandatory vaccination

Serbian parliament assaulted by a coalition of anti-vaccine and far-right hooligans protesting the lockout

Anti-vaccine movements are an expression of that reactionary anti-capitalism which characterizes the petty bourgeoisie when it attempts to politically articulate its impossible situation under present-day capitalism. Its evolution towards becoming a political force, instrumentalized by the international branches of trumpism in order to put sticks in the wheel of US competitors, expresses well the anti-human character of its class interests. In the end: their utopias cost lives, directly threaten workers and dream of destroying the legacy of capitalism back when it was progressive in order for Humanity to return to who knows what survivalist and bucolic delirium.

The bourgeoisie declaring vaccination voluntary and trying to blame workers and their supposed individual responsibility for the self-interested absenteeism of the same bourgeoisie, only highlights its reactionary character and its incompetence to lead society

The concept of Public Health, the development linked to science of the political fight against epidemics and the appearance of vaccines, marked the culminating moment of that historical stage in which the interests of the bourgeoisie in directing society, drove progress and human development. Today, the bourgeoisie itself is distancing itself from what was its point of honor, declaring vaccination to be voluntary and attempting to blame on the workers and their supposed individual responsibility its own self-interested absenteeism. This only highlights its reactionary character, its incompetence to lead society and the need to overcome once and for all the already anti-historical and anti-human system that sustains this ruling class.

What do you mean by working at every moment on everything that affects the preconditions for the struggles?

Parents and teachers of the Marie Curie school call for the opening of a new classroom.

The ability of the working class to translate its collective experience of struggles into class consciousness is not an abstract property, it does not magically occur.

1 Wherever there is enough collective combativeness for the unions to consider channeling the workers’ struggle into non-existence, we find that informal groups of workers have appeared beforehand. These groups, or rather networks, or even conversations, articulate through collective discussion the defense of basic needs. They blossom into a certain collective awareness and are fundamental even for the struggles to be raised.

What has happened as a result of the pandemic? The physical places and everyday interactions where these processes could take place are in jeopardy. We literally need to keep our distance. We can only trust WhatsApp groups moderately, as their contents are open and written down, thus making them the first target of labor repression. Conversations in terraces and bars after work are almost suicidal, especially if we have elderly dependents. And neighborhood life is all but dead.

That possibility of talking in confidence among workers, even from the same workplace, that possibility of getting together with others who live in similar circumstances in other firms because of neighborhood relations, are the core of those preconditions of which we speak.

2 When we look at the actual process after the struggle breaks out we see that the main material obstacle today, besides the media and ideological barrages, are the trade unions. Today -it was not always so- they raise strikes as appeals to which workers can voluntarily adhere individually or not. It is no longer an assembly, not even one that is tightly controlled by the unions, which votes – as the collective thing that it is – whether to go on strike or not. The workforce is no longer the one going on strike, but the individuals who compose it.

The existence of critical informal discussions between workers in different workplaces and also between of workers within each workplace is the core of the preconditions that support first the emergence of struggles and then their spreading and breaking out of the police control of the trade unions

It is the way to maintain atomization – and thus control over the workers – even throughout what is presented as a struggle. In reality it is the democratic-bureaucratic way of sterilizing them, in other words the union way of deactivating struggles.

In the struggles throughout last year, especially in sectors such as education, we have seen the tendency to escape from union control and collectivize strikes by making them the collective decision of the assembly of all workers. The problem is that it manifested itself in the form of isolated center-specific strikes. The result is a dispersion which the unions end up redirecting under appeals to days of struggle that immediately turn into theatrical negotiations with the administration. Negotiations evincing the isolation of the rebels and sending the false message that one must go through the trade unions to make oneself heard and achieve something.

We have also seen cases where strikes actually controlled, decided and organized by the workers as such, collectively, were able to break isolation. In most cases they did so on the basis of previous connections. In education through parents’ organizations. In Health through temporary and precarious workers who had worked in other centers.

The existence of critical informal discussions between workers in different centers and of workers within each center lies at the heart of the preconditions that support first the emergence of struggles and then their spreading and breaking out of the police control of the trade unions.

We are Emancipation | We publish Communia in English, Spanish and French.

Workers of all countries, unite, abolish armies, police, war production, borders, wage labor!