Today in Spain the “state of alarm” is no longer in effect. To reach this point, deaths were no longer counted, even though they continued to occur, and then suddenly they were stretched far below the real figure, which today is probably nearer to 50,000 deaths. A full-blown massacre… that’s not over. Globally, the disease advances at full speed, but in Europe, borders are gradually being reopened. The bourgeoisie wants everything to appear “normal” so that accumulation can resume its rhythm, but we are very far from anything like that. It is time to draw some conclusions and clarify some perspectives on what is to come.
From the rushes, imaginative data cooking and early openings of hotel and border businesses, two things are clear: that the end of early confinement claimed lives and that the health objective was always surpassed by the fear of damaging investments.
From the experience in each country it is clear that all forms of precarization and pauperization have been instrumental in worsening the impact of the epidemic on the world’s working class. Beginning with the dismantling of public health systems to which governments on the left and right have contributed for decades, followed by the model of nursing homes and ending with the precarity in the workplace itself. The correlation in all three cases is so direct and the causes so clear that hundreds if not thousands of strikes and struggles have taken place in hospitals and in factories around the world have simply been “erased” from the media because they were unacceptable to capital.
The pandemic has made clear in every country the incompatibility between the needs of capital and the most basic human needs, starting with the need not to be infected with or to spread a fatal disease and continuing with the universal need to access essential consumption products during an emergency. The anti-human character of capital as the basis of social organization has been seen in each and every one of the affected countries. Of course, the weaker capitals have shown it more harshly, and even among the relatively stronger capitals, such as Italy or Spain, those having large investments in tourism, they have suffered proportionally more, and this has translated into the stock markets as much as in the goals and means of their recovery plans. But there have been no exceptions. One need only look at the situation of the pandemic in the USA, Japan or Great Britain.
The epidemic has also left us with three important tactical lessons. The first, evident from the outset: the absolute impossibility of anything resembling “national independence” being of any use to the workers. The epidemic is global and could only have been tackled globally. But, secondly, by straining the competition between capitals the epidemic has also accelerated the competition between each and every state and national capital. There is not a single one that has not shown its imperialist character. The result has occurred at all levels, starting with the dismantling of the already scarce and biased multilateral systems, followed by the crisis of the EU and up to the passage of the trade war to a phase of armed trade negotiation and the new nuclear weapons boom that puts an end to the atomic balance of the last 30 years. The nation and its “national interests”, i.e. the interests of each and every national capital, are today so openly reactionary that their legacy after three months of pandemic is nothing but a continuum of revived wars and new hotbeds of armed conflict from West Africa to the South China Sea and the Pacific.
This general framework that the pandemic has highlighted about the character of the nation and the national state in our days is materialized with unusual radicality in the “patriotic” class par excellence: the petty bourgeoisie. The epidemic has renewed and refreshed their revolt by removing any little bit of modesty left in their claims. Case by case, country by country and sector by sector, from the agrarian petty bourgeoisie to the industrial one, from taxi drivers to the corporate and financial petty bourgeoisie, their goal has been from the very beginning to end the confinement and to demand that they be given a free legal way to implement aggravated conditions of exploitation. They have been the most radical bourgeois wing against the workers and the most anti-human in their messages.
What comes next
In Spain the bourgeoisie has not waited a single day to openly confirm what we had been anticipating: there is an attack on work and pensions disguised as European “negotiation”. The long awaited European funds proposed by Germany and France are still more imaginary than real and whose negotiations are not progressing. From waiting for funds in June, the spanish government has set its sights on “January or February”. And despite all this, whatever is finally decided, these funds will decide the “objectives of the legislature”. What happens in Spain is not very different from what occurs in France and other European countries.
Since the beginning of the crisis it became clearer that the so-called “reconstruction” would mean an acceleration of the “green deal”, and not only in Europe. The International Energy Agency last week released its own estimates and targets: to mobilize 3 trillion dollars over three years to raise global GDP growth by 3.5 points by 2023. That is, to promote a gigantic transfer of income from labor to capital to reanimate accumulation through a “technological” change paid for by workers around the world.
It becomes abundantly clear that the green ideological campaign will be revived at all costs and at full strength. In the “new normality” the state needs to give a “progressive” appearance to the measures and sacrifices imposed to rescue national capital. Nationalizations are back and with them the mystifications about “public property”. For the same reason, identitarian movements will permeate state policies and ideological campaigns: everything that divides, everything that breaks the workers will be strategic because it will help ward off the only response that can really confront the logic of a wounded capital.
So after three months of public disappearance, feminism will return and it will try to consolidate itself as a state ideology after some internal battles against its heresies. Possibly there will be an attempt to import the racism -renamed as “racialism”- of the Anglo-Saxon world to the countries where, following France, the bourgeoisie defined itself in its day from a “universalist” model based on citizenship. In countries such as Spain or Italy where petty-bourgeois revolt tends to manifest itself as territorial conflict, the turn towards particularism and identitarianism is increasingly tempting for the ruling class. On the one hand, it helps them to absorb in their parties and systemic institutions the conflict with an increasingly rampant and delusional petty bourgeoisie, on the other hand, it allows them, for example, to portray the situation of the agricultural proletariat as a racial question, separating it from the generalized precarization, and to promote the migrant petty bourgeoisie as a “mediator”.
But not everything happening right now are moves and trends imposed by capital and the ruling class. Invisible in the media, since the beginning of the pandemic we have experienced the greatest wave of simultaneous strikes in almost a century. From the Mexican maquilas and the agricultural workers in Washington to the Donbass, from the healthcare personnel from the five continents to bus drivers and factories, all these mobilizations have raised slogans that clearly expressed the need to impose human needs above the needs of capital and its profitability. They have not lacked courage or clarity of purpose. They need now, however, to understand how to go from resistance to victory.