Four clues of what we are living and what is to come, about topics the media are barely talking about in order to sweeten an unacceptable reality.
“De-escalation” is unwise and shows that the priority is to save investments, not lives
In a context in which even countries that “flattened the curve” as Korea and China are experiencing dangerous rebounds, what is pushing governments is the rush to minimize costs for companies, as admitted by Madrid, instead of reducing infections and deaths as much as possible.
“Anti-covid” policies focus on making our working conditions and pensions suffer as well
Around the world, the direct attack on the length of the working day, which had already been underway for the past few years, has accelerated during the pandemic. The leap in the discourse on pensions is noticeable throughout the Southern European press. Not even the language is sweetened by a perpetual candidate for socialist minister of the economy like Jose Carlos Díez, and he aims to do with pensions what the Sánchez government had been doing with wages: reduce them to the minimum wage, but now by decree:
Spain needs a Bravo Murillo or a Raimundo Fernández Villaverde [both 19th century Spanish politicians] to implement a fiscal reform that will increase income by 2% of the GDP in the coming years. And to trim the minimum structural public spending another 2% of the GDP. The main problem lies in pensions, which this year will have a hole of more than 30 billion euros. Pensions were created to protect against poverty and 70% of pensioners earn less than 1,000 euros and are on that threshold, the rest are unsustainable. The Administration needs a comprehensive digital transformation plan and to increase the productivity of civil servants. Confinement has shown that teleworking with far fewer public employees is possible.
Europe is not the alternative to the attack on living and working conditions, but an accelerator and a cover for it
The anti-crisis measures in the EU are brutally asymmetrical. Germany is using the crisis and the benefits of the euro as a tool for its national capital to gain an advantage over its rivals within the EU and to condition the upcoming balance of power. “Aid” such as the ESM, from which Spain will ask for credits equivalent to 2% of its GDP, will only further and more peremptorily make each state attack working conditions and pensions.
The “European minimum income” promoted by Iglesias (Podemos) and the Ministers of Labour of Portugal (PS) and Italy (M5S) is not a guarantee, but a means and a cover. Even if it were to become a “universal basic income” like the one tested in Finland. Finnish social security simply reported that UBI has no relevant effect on the labor market. It does, however, open the way to the pure and simple elimination of pensions in the sense that Díaz pointed out in the above quote: they become a universal right to assistance. All pensioners will be relegated to the edge of poverty… or beyond.
The process of “de-escalation” is not a period of laborious “sacrifices” and rapid “recovery” but of social precarization, instability and war tensions
And it’s already started. Currency exchange disasters are coming, starting with Brazil and Argentina. We are seeing imperialist tensions at unbearable levels, such as those in the South China Sea, where China has banned fishing and accelerated the risk of armed confrontation with the United States and weapons build-up, both its own stockpile and that of its American rival supported by neighboring countries such as Japan.
It is true that the US is reducing its direct military presence in the Persian Gulf and the Middle East, but only to the extent that it allows the US to concentrate forces on its growing pressure against China. China, ever more closely linked to Russia, is betting instead that the new nuclear arms race will play against the US this time.
What is to be done?
Every day new strikes and struggles are breaking out. They are the only counter-trend to all this horror that is hanging over all the workers of the world. But they are still company or sector-based strikes. We have to bear in mind recent experiences. A strike that extends to all the companies in a region or district and is organized in assemblies is more effective in causing changes and conditioning the governments than a national or continental strike organized by a sector-based union. In many places, starting with Italy, we are already reaching this dichotomy. In other countries, such as France, Spain, Portugal and Greece, it is foreseeable that, after the end of the temporary layoff extension, in the middle of summer, extremely violent legal reforms will take place against pensions and employment conditions. It will then become decisive to be able to give a political response, a mobilization as a class. We must prepare ourselves.