Coronavirus: fighting the pandemic is a class issue

This illustration provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in January 2020 shows the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV). This virus was identified as the cause of an outbreak of respiratory illness first detected in Wuhan, China. (CDC via AP)
The COVID-19 outbreak is close to becoming a global pandemic – the WHO so far refuses to make this call, but many experts think that point has already been reached

Xi Jinping says it’s China’s worst public health crisis since 1949. His regime has made a pig’s ear of the whole affair, but is still praised by the capitalist world’s closet authoritarians for “strong” leadership. The CCP won’t recover from this blow to its credibility, but the process of revolutionary crisis in China can be very complicated and circuitous.

3,000 hospital workers in China now infected with COVID-19 and shortages of basic equipment continue. Tens of millions are still trapped in their apartments, for over one month now, facing arrest if they go out without a permit. But as of this week the epidemic is spreading faster outside China than inside (if the Chinese data is not made up). South Korea and Italy — two of the world’s largest economies — and Iran are the new high risk countries.

China’s economic role

China’s economic role as the biggest contributor to global GDP growth, the main price setter for oil and commodities, and the hub of global supply chains, means that the economic disruption — after a month-long almost complete industrial shutdown — to world capitalism is gonna be much worse than they are publicly admitting or realising. Some Chinese economists are bravely acknowledging it could be zero or negative growth this quarter and possibly for the first six months of 2020.

Workers’ organisations need to be prodded into taking an active stand, for democratic control and full transparency of national epidemic contingency plans (in so far as these even exist). Fighting the pandemic is a class issue! An emergency plan to produce medical equipment and protective clothing, testing kits, humane quarantine facilities, and to fast forward research to bring out vaccines under public ownership and democratic control is what is needed.

The market slaughter of public healthcare systems which in most countries are not anywhere near adequate to meet a full-scale pandemic has to be reversed. Unions to fight for workers’ protection, right to work from home, no layoffs and no unpaid leave. Like all capitalist crises we reject that workers and the poor will carry the burden while the capitalists and stock market parasites are protected.