In our @strike channel we have counted 288 strike calls and mobilizations in the first third of the month. From the first days of the month already with a strong prominence of all school-related work. However, in the middle of the official campaign of false normality and return to classes, teachers have found more than a few official reprisals and threats, from the United States to Spain. And except where the unions are the ones who are calling, as in Brazil, struggles are taking place in an isolated, if not atomized, way. Only in France we have counted 17 striking schools… each one on their own.
The important thing however is that it reproduces in the teaching sector something that we already saw among health workers during the previous months: returning to class conditions under the pandemic reveals the erosion of years of cuts in the form of an increase in the number of students per class. A teacher from Chérioux in Vitry-sur-Seine denounced for instance that
The number of 6th grade students has exploded, we will soon reach 30 in all classes. Many newcomers, especially foreigners, are rejected, so as not to exceed the maximum threshold
And so demands and strikes appear on the margins of the unions, denouncing overwork, the lack of personnel and the class closures due to dwindling teacher numbers. In Italy we see a similar phenomenon reflecting the particularities of the way in which the Italian government imposed cuts and precarization. In Italy they fight, for instance, to end partial workdays or arrange the chaotic assignment of substitutes and interim periods.
All these demands were already present in countless complaints but only now, under the pressure of Covid conditions, are they turning into struggles. Our balance sheet is that the Covid is accelerating in the schools a development of combativeness that has been maturing for a while, but precisely because of this these struggles are now manifesting themselves in an isolated if not atomized form.
And yet, the insights to overcome isolation without any misleading union “assistance” are emerging as well. In Spain, we see parents showing solidarity with teachers and accompanying them in the strike on one side and in the other, demands that from the first moment bring together all the personnel, teaching or not, of the schools and school transport. A group of workers who, by the way, have been heading the mobilizations in many parts of the world because buses are one of the main vectors of contagion.
The Covid context worsens
September started with about 30 deaths per day and in the last week it has been double, about 60 per day. Hospitals are filling up. Covid-19 patients occupy 17% of available beds in Madrid (+8 points in three weeks), 13% in the Balearic Islands (+8), 10% in La Rioja (+8), and 10% in Castilla-La Mancha (+7). In these four communities occupancy is growing faster, but it is growing almost everywhere. Hospitals are not overwhelmed as they were in March, and they are receiving more mild patients, but the trend is worrisome. In addition, ICU admissions are growing at the same rate.
Only in Madrid the number of hospitalized patients has multiplied by three in the last month, and the situation is worrying in Andalusia and other regions. And all this in the middle of a return to school which proves to be anything but safe.
Spain has the worst data in the EU, but it is by no means an isolated case. In Argentina, the pandemic has left 115 dead daily. Israel has returned to generalized lockdown in the face of escalating numbers. in the United States, and Brazil, the numbers are improving, without ceasing to mean a slaughter of more than 700 people a day on average.
Vaccines and beyond
As could be seen from the first weeks of lockdown, covid is an accelerator of the contradictions of the system at all levels. Including the main one: the one that confronts capital with the most basic universal human needs, that is, the bourgeoisie and the state to the workers. With each passing month and the states trying to return to a false normality in order to recover the profitability of national capital investments, the unfolding of the epidemic only aggravates these contradictions even more.
We have even seen this with AstraZeneca’s vaccine whose clinical trials were halted when a case of adverse myelitis appeared, a terrible disease in itself. Today the trials will be resumed in Brazil and Great Britain. But even if safety conditions are met, as the British drug agency assures, the warning is clear: the big pharma companies have taken advantage of the special treatment provided by governments for vaccine research to try to give a boost to research on new patentable methodologies based on viral vectors instead of using conventional methods. Confident that the scale of short-term sales, guaranteed by the macro-contracts with the states, would make them profitable in record time, they have taken greater risks. From the point of view of investment profitability and capacity to attract capital, it was the advisable thing to do, of course. But not from the point of view of universal needs, which would probably have advised opting for conventional methods with greater chances of success.
The increase in hospitalizations, the ongoing strikes and the failure of the Oxford vaccine are not isolated events. What is coming next? An increasingly clear increase in all of these contradictions, with states and media trying to push back the reality of the pandemic and its consequences and making workers’ struggles even more brazenly invisible. And on the horizon, the pressing need for self-centralization and extension of the struggles.