The COVID-19 Pandemic and the Urgent Need to Break the Grip of the Two-Party System
Originally published on 4/4/2020
Statement by the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party (UPP) and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP)
The United States, the global epicenter of capitalist inequality, has become in fact the global epicenter of disease and death. After 40 years of cutbacks and relentless efforts to destroy everything the working class has been able to build over a century and a half of struggle, we are confronted now with a triple-layered crisis: public-health, financial and political.
On the Public-Health Front: A Vulnerable Nation
The nationwide cuts to public-health budgets have been drastic, and they have been bipartisan. To give just one defining example: In California, a state with Democrats at the helm, per-capita public-health spending has been cut by 18% since 2008, essential public hospitals closed, and funding slashed for two state programs designed specifically for a statewide response in case of an epidemic emergency.
At the same time, 28 million working people nationwide remain without healthcare insurance, while an additional 59.6 million people are under-insured. The unjust character of the U.S. healthcare system was on full display with the recent death of a 17-year-old boy in Lancaster, Calif., who had been infected with COVID-19 and was turned away from a private hospital for lack of health insurance. The boy died shortly afterwards from septic shock.
“Apocalytic” captures the situation described by medical personnel trying to cope with the situation at New York’s Elmhurst Hospital without essential protective gear and equipment.
As these lines were written, 305 died in New York City in just one day (one person every 4.7 minutes), and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that the City would run out of ventilators to keep people alive in a matter of a few days.
It has been scarcely more than one month ago, Feb. 29, that the first U.S. death was reported. By April 3, the Center for Disease Control counted 5,443 U.S. deaths attributed to COVID-19. At 239,279, the U.S. ranks first in the world in the number of confirmed cases, and this at a time when test kits still remain largely unavailable. The actual number of people who contract the virus, including those who remain asymptomatic, never will be known.
On the Financial Front: Bail out Main Street, NOT Wall Street!
Both parties of Big Business — the Democrats and Republicans — created the conditions for the rapid spread of this pandemic. They are using it to enrich their corporate sponsors, and will pass the costs of stabilizing their profit system onto the working class. The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet is in essence a corporate bailout, with massive tax loopholes, forgivable loan terms, and provisions for increased deregulation and privatization. It features an unregulated $454 billion corporate slush fund to be administered by the Federal Reserve Board in conjunction with BlackRock, the financial corporation that bailed out Wall Street (not Main Street) during the 2007-2008 recession and that is destroying pension plans, jobs and public services the world over.
Leaders of the twin parties of the bosses tied the corporate bailout to the direct payments to workers and the unemployed with the full knowledge that the stimulus package would promote massive corporate consolidation and would further restructure the economy in favor of Wall Street and Big Business.
There also was agreement to exclude the 22 million non-citizens from the payments and protections in the package. In fact, it is estimated that 140 million people living in or close to poverty will not get close to adequate funding to weather the pandemic. Their lives are at risk.
The $2 trillion “stimulus” packet, however, is just the tip of the bailout iceberg. The Federal Reserve, the U.S. central bank, quickly allocated no less than $4.2 trillion to bail out the banks and investors, already flush with cash reserves from near-zero interest rates and the Trump tax cut. The Fed has promised to do more if needed and for as long as necessary.
Meanwhile, a record 6.6 million workers filed for unemployment the last week of March. The real number of unemployed is actually much higher. Economists predict that the unemployment rate could shoot up to 30% in the coming months.
We know already to whom the two parties of the bosses will turn to bear the brunt of keeping capitalism intact unless we wage a united fightback in coordination with the unions and organizations of the oppressed communities. The working class still is reeling from the 2008 bailout. Whether Democrats or Republicans are in power, the mantra will be that there are no funds to pay for essential social services, education, healthcare, and other public benefits. Employer-provided healthcare benefits, in particular, will be eliminated or the cost thrust onto workers since the insurance industry already has projected a 40% increase in rates. Wages, let alone wage increases and pension benefits, will be on the chopping block, too.
On the Political Front: A Bankrupt Two-Party System
Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, finance capital is working overtime to block the rising movements for environmental justice; healthcare as a human right (Medicare for All); a living wage for all; full labor, civil and democratic rights; and equality.
Joe Biden, a candidate beholden to Wall Street, is on the verge of being anointed the party’s presidential nominee, after a concerted effort by the party leadership to smash the progressive challenge from within its ranks. At a time when the bankruptcy of the current heathcare system has been exposed for all to see, Biden announced that if elected president, he would veto any Medicare for All bill that came to his desk!
It is likely that the Democratic National Committee will cancel the July Milwaukee convention and declare Biden its nominee, sharpening the political crisis and improving vastly the chances of Trump’s re-election.
Instead of promoting peace and international solidarity to fight COVID-19, the twin parties of war have increased sanctions on countries like Cuba, Venezuela and Iran, causing further hardship and death to innocent civilians. In yet another desperate move, the Trump administration, without a word of protest from the Democrats, has raised bogus charges against Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro in its determined effort to foster regime change.
“Break the Grip of the Two-Party System” Organizing Meeting
In the face of a massive corporate assault that has been heightened by the pandemic, workers are fighting back; in fact, they are fighting for their very lives. The resurgent, fighting spirit on the shop floors and in workplaces across the country of the past two years is being expressed in nationwide wildcat strikes and other job actions by workers demanding protective gear and safe working conditions denied them by unscrupulous employers.
The list of wildcat strikes is growing by the day. Those involved include Instacart, Amazon and Whole Food workers across the country; nurses in Watsonville, Calif.; sanitation workers in Pittsburgh; ironworkers in Maine’s shipyards; bus drivers in Detroit; Fiat-Chrysler workers in Warren, Mich.; McDonalds workers in Illinois; grocery-store workers in McAllen, Texas; and poultry workers in Georgia. The list goes on.
In oppressed communities across the United States, the same fighting spirit continues to take on evictions and gentrification, police brutality, and mass incarceration (targeting Black and Brown people disproportionately). In Chicago, tenants unable to pay their rent came together to organize a rent strike.
In Baltimore, a city where 30% of households live on an income of less than $25,000 a year, residents unable to pay their water bills are fighting back. Home owners are particularly outraged by the fact that major corporations and new developments in gentrified sections of the city have not been made to pay their water utility bills for years, while hundreds of homes were taken from low-income people for owing the city taxes or utility bills, thereby pushing Black and working class families out of the city to facilitate gentrification.
The fight in defense of undocumented immigrants and prisoners’ rights also has stepped up. Appeals and actions, framed in both health and political terms, are growing to demand the closure of the immigrant detention centers and the release of all detainees, as well the release of prisoners from the over-crowded jails.
The current pandemic shows no sign of letting up any time soon in the United States, so given the restrictions on face-to-face conferences, our usual ways of building opposition and seeking justice will have to continue electronically at this time. We cannot take a break from promoting the desperately needed effort to jettison the two old parties of Big Business on our way to building a just society.
In early March, the Labor Fightback Network (LFN), the Ujima People’s Progress Party, and Labor and Community for an Independent Party (LCIP) issued a call for a national conference to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System.” The conference was slated to take place in Baltimore on July 31 to August 2, 2020. [See Conference Call attached.]
To prepare this conference (which may have to be held via webinar or zoom), the three sponsoring organizations will be holding an expanded Baltimore Conference Organizing Meeting on April 25, 2020.
If you are interested in participating in this Organizing Meeting to help us promote the political orientation and aims of the Baltimore conference as outlined in the attached call to “Break the Grip of the Two-Party System,” please contact us as soon as possible at the email address above or at email@example.com.
Our goal is to bring together unionists and community activists who support the Baltimore Conference Call and who are willing to join us in organizing a united fightback in our workplaces and communities and in projecting that fightback into the political arena by laying the groundwork for an independent working-class party rooted in the unions and the communities of the oppressed.