The Covid-19 crisis has exposed, once again, the fragilities of the capitalist system. This crisis has shown that capitalism makes us collectively weaker and more vulnerable, and threatens to destroy us. It does not do so in an egalitarian way or at the same speed, but instead accentuates existing inequalities based on the lack of income, class, gender, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation. The biggest costs of this crisis are imposed on those who can afford it least and, undoubtedly, this will become even more true when we enter the aftermath of the disease and attempt to “return to normality”.
In Portugal, as in the rest of the world, those who have sustained quarantines, cared for the sick and guaranteed supplies and logistics, were the precarious workers, the essential service workers, solidarity networks and people who, both at home and on the streets, take care of us, through paid or unpaid work. Their work has kept food systems up and running, hospitals functioning, the social services and public transports operational, water and waste services at work, fields harvested, houses (their own and others) and people cared for. Essential work is not only that which is legally defined as such. We depend on these people, but a smokescreen was trying to hide them. This curtain is already being closed again.
Basic rights are threatened. Confronting a health and economic crisis, rights must be ensured to the entire population unconditionally. The general lack of income becomes normalized in a system that only manages crises with social collapse. To stop them:
– The healthcare system needs to be protected against commodification of health, by reinforcing and ensuring the responsiveness to care needs and by reinforcing its working conditions, in a universal manner and free of charge.
– The conditions for having food must be guaranteed – always – as a basic and universal right, and not as charity dependent on the goodwill of others.
– Evictions should be prevented and buildings that are not being used should provide housing now and in the future.
– It is urgent that all families have access to energy and water, in such a way that considers environmental limits and social justice.
– There must be universal access to digital tools and to a free public education system that prepares us for a future that is even more uncertain and risky than the situation we are living now.
– Racism, authoritarianism and structural violence against racialized and poor people must be addressed.
The deep climate crisis is not slowing down and the shock waves of Covid-19 exacerbate its impacts, reducing the safety of essential goods and protection during disasters. Capitalism, as an economic system, will not solve the social crisis nor the climate crisis. Solving the climate crisis requires a just transition, dismantling the fossil-based energy and transport industry in the next decade and restructuring the production processes. This requires employing hundreds of thousands of people in essential public services that guarantee productive sovereignty and democracy.
The advance of the state in the economy, which is already happening, must aim to save the people and respond to their needs, instead of trying to save capital by simply helping the business as usual, as has been the case whenever capitalism plunges into crisis. With the collapse of the economy, capital will mobilize all its efforts and resources so that governments take the priority of safeguarding large private corporations. On the contrary, jobs are what must be guaranteed, with decent and equal conditions, in a new economy that is participatory, social and that ensures the sustainability of life. It is necessary to bailout people from sectors that are now devastated, such as mass tourism or fossil energies, by transferring them to sectors such as care (hospitals, care homes, food, cleaning, among others), culture and renewable energies – thereby responding to the lack of jobs and contributing to restructure the economy for life care, instead of the current economic dependence on vulnerable and, in some cases, socially useless sectors. On the other hand, too many essential goods depend on fragile production chains, multinational corporations and outdated geopolitical dynamics. Ensuring safe production of food and medicines, with short chains and with greater proximity between producers and consumers, is central to our safety.
However, at every step taken more debt is produced, in a system manipulated by the powerful to maintain the status quo. These debts deprive us of freedom and capacity for action and emancipation, aiming only at exacerbating the exploitation of people and resources. As long as debts – in particular those of the states – are not rejected, there is no way out.
On October 17th, we will take to the streets in a public demonstration, considering the necessary precautions to protect others and ourselves. We will go out because there are millions of people who have never stopped going out, with enormous personal and family risks, and we will not let these people be put back behind a curtain of disdain and devaluation. We will go out because the lack of real plans and support for millions of people, in particular for the most vulnerable, in Portugal and in the world, is an even greater threat than the current pandemic, increasing LGBTQ-phobia, xenophobia and sexism. We will go out because we are experiencing other crises, such as the environmental and climate crisis, which will trigger many more economic, social and health crises, and which not only are not disappearing but are rather getting worse.
We will go out for a massive plan of public jobs to save people and the climate. We will go out because politics and democracy have not been archived away and we must go back to the streets to have our say and to contest the directions (and the lack thereof) that are being imposed without any consultation, questioning or debate, as if we lost the right to intervene in our collective government. We will not stand by and watch history, we will create our own history.
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