HOW A “RANDOM EVENT » TURNS INTO A DISASTER, OR THE STORY OF THE INABILITY OF LIBERAL STATES TO FACE REALITY.
The idea is not to underestimate the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis but to show how liberal policies implemented in most countries create a situation in which we count the dead by tens of thousands and a third of the population is confined due to lack of equipment.
Initially, we have a virus which spreads quickly and causes a specific illness, the Covid-19. This illness requires special care. In the event of complications, most patients are sent to intensive care units for long-term respiratory assistance. The battle that our countries are fighting today is how to cope with this influx of patients in ill-equipped hospitals. All day long, mass-media inform us about the catastrophy that is afflicting the world. In fact, this catastrophic situation is occurring because for years governments have consistently destroyed our public services. « Public hospitals » are still funded but run as a private enterprise in order to lower costs. This is mainly achieved by just-in-time management techniques, which have made it possible to take thousands of beds out of service, close so-called peripheral hospitals, and reduce the hiring of health personnel (by making health-care careers less attractive).
Each year, hospitals « pitch » when a random event occurs and generates a larger patient flow over a given period. We saw it, for example, during the heat wave when indoors sport halls were turned into morgues. The narrative is intended to make us forget the inability of the state to face the situation due to lack of means and instead sympathize with the catastrophic results. The given explanation does not incriminate the state, expected to act in favour of the general interest, but individual behaviors that failed to « stand up to the task ». During the heat wave, it was a case of selfish children failing to care about their elders. In the case of the coronavirus, it is a matter of « Gallic lack of discipline » disregarding the rules. « When the wise man points at the moon, the idiot looks at the finger » … « Wise men » would be the holders of the dominant liberal ideology but we are not the idiots looking at the finger. The culprit is neither the virus, nor undisciplined citizens, but our successive governments who have for the last 30 years governed with economic freedom as their sole compass. The worst is yet to come, these people’s contempt for the planet will speed up the occurrence of these « hazards » which will turn into disasters.
The coronavirus is an animal virus transmitted to humans, issued from a family of viruses known as « zoonoses ». Deforestation, spreading of agricultural land, trade in wild animals, consumption of wild animals and sometimes even the eating of infected carcasses bring the virus to humans. This is made possible by the transformation of the ecosystem due to human activity. It is indeed an ecological virus impacted by globalisation to which are added the consequences of global warming.
To deal with this virus we need an answer to the question regarding the kind of society we want in the future; and also the ideological relation of forces as well as the geopolitical ties that must be developed. This is how a political situation must be considered. It is of course not a matter of proclaiming ourselves GPs overnight, but of analysing this situation from a political point of view. It is the role of every citizen who wishes to fight for the public interest.
You will note that the government calls for solidarity but refuses to accept the proposal of our parliamentary group, La France Insoumise, to temporarily restore (for the duration of the « health war ») the solidarity tax on wealth. At the same time, it does not hesitate to nibble away at the paid holidays of the vast majority of French men and women. It tells us that all means will be mobilised « regardless of cost », but so far refuses to answer the call to requisition private clinics and self-employed anaesthesiologists. It is in fact the latter who asked for it in a press release dated March 21 and entitled « requisition us ».
So, it is indeed a political debate that is underway and two visions of society that are clashing. On the one hand, we have extreme liberalism trying to salvage its furniture already under water, and on the other, the emerging of a humanist construct on behalf of the common interest.
Behind the reassuring words of the proponents of neoliberal politics, there is a true dictate imposed on civil liberties and more blatant inequalities awaiting us at the end of this crisis if no opposition develops. There is no need to look very far, just read Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine in which she discusses the evolution of neoliberal society after a disaster. It is worth remembering a few key examples:
· Dictatorships in Chile (Pinochet), in Indonesia (Suharto), and in Bolivia where reforms were undertaken by force after coups and the elimination of all forms of opposition in order to implement extreme forms of liberalism;
· Eastern European countries after the fall of the Berlin Wall where « liberalisation » took place in Poland and Russia in the early 1990s;
· Margaret Thatcher’s government in the UK and the disastrous results we see today in British public services;
· The policies that have been implemented in the United States since 1990, and especially under the Bush administration with the gradual privatisation of security after the attacks of September 11, 2001, the war in Iraq or Hurricane Katrina . The result being an extension of extreme poverty;
· Similar shock wave in Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami where hotel owners from around the world divided previously protected territories among themselves;
· Same scenario across Asia following the 1997 crisis.
Each time, as in Baghdad, local populations are divided on a one hand into a kind of green zone, rich and protected from danger, and on the other one or more red zones, dangerous and miserable.
In France, « Chicago boys » are making their move. The state of health emergency is coupled with threats against civil liberties. The coronavirus crisis is taking place in a context of strong social movements and popular demands. While in many countries, people are trying to make themselves heard and to express their suffering with loud voices on the streets. Public hospitals are being bled, education budgets are reduced, salaries do not increase while the revenues of companies listed on the stock exchanges keep rising, tax cuts intended to improve the competitiveness of firms result in more lay-offs, and labour rights are disregarded. Popular forms of anger have been repressed for more than a year now, combining police violence with the use of batons, tear gas, plastic bullets and arbitrary arrests. People are wounded and blinded without restraints.
The disastrous management of the health crisis is a major cause for concern. Nothing was done at first, then the home-based containment occurred, coupled with a health emergency law. The French government now rules by executive orders. These orders are aimed at destroying the Labour Code, the most violent attack in 75 years! A sixty-hour week, no paid overtime, no paid leave without authorisation from the bosses, no salary increases and even in some cases salary cuts, all in the name of saving the economy while the government refuses to re-establish the wealth tax as part of this very same crisis-fighting effort!
In this situation combining fear of the spreading virus with confinement at home, no one is able to react. The authoritarian tendencies of our rulers are spreading at the same frantic speed as the virus. The hope of the oligarchs to have at their disposal a docile work force to exploit at will is taking shape. For Jean-Luc Mélenchon, President of our parliamentary group, the state of emergency is an attack on democracy. These so-called provisional measures may then pass into ordinary law, as happened in the case of the exceptional state of emergency against terrorist attacks. We urgently need to plan, requisition and even nationalise. Now is the time to coordinate all ways and means to recover our production sovereignty and independence. As we have completely surrendered our independence in drug manufacturing, we must now rebuild this key sector.
Fraternity, mutual aid, free services, public service; the state must be brought up to date to oppose social selfishness, profit, greed, free and unfettered competition. Our political platform “The Future in Common” describes these proposals.
Ecological and social struggles must be linked. The break from capitalist productivism is essential to establish ecological and industrial planning, because green capitalism does not exist. Sharing wealth is essential for everyone’s happiness and well-being. General interest must be our basic concern. For this, we propose to relocate production and to promote peasant agriculture to achieve food sovereignty. Let us put a stop to the world’s big transformation based on with free trade agreements that not only destroy the environment but also kill people. We propose to restore the value of labour and to respect the productive forces. Austerity is not a liberating way to live but a destructive and even murderous way.
In conclusion, we can say that containment is not a panacea. The emergency today to limit the number of deaths is to plan how to exit home-containment and to convert our industry to produce millions of tests, millions of masks, and thousands of respirators. The democratic right to oppose and propose must be protected; it is an absolute priority to counter the authoritarian drift that is spreading. As Jean-Luc Mélenchon stated in a radio interview in late March: « Faced with the carelessness of neoliberal governments and their intrinsic stupidity, people will soon ask them to leave. What is ahead of us is incredibly more unprecedented than anything we can imagine”.
There is no going back, so let us build today the eco-socialist world of tomorrow.
Claudio Calfuquir, Sandrine Coquerie, Hélène Le Cacheux
Traduction Jean-Claude Simon et Pierre Mourrier