Germany: Corona is the virus – capitalism is the pandemic!

Socialist Organisation Solidarity (CWI Germany) 'wall paper' on Covid-19 crisis

The public campaigning of Socialist Organisation Solidarity (Sol, CWI in Germany) is, like all left organisations, greatly affected by the covid-19 crisis. We were involved in tenants’ protests and campaigns for free public transport. With others, we recently set up a new left-wing trade union grouping, the Network for Fighting Trade Unions (VKG), at a conference last January.
Covid-19 changed all this, at lightning speed. We had to cancel our Socialist Organisation Solidarity’s March conference, and within a few weeks public meetings and most public activities, like street stalls, became impossible. But our activity continues in workplaces that are still functioning. And we remain active in local communities, for example, putting up ‘wall newspapers’ and distributing leaflets through letterboxes.
At the same time, we have increased our internet activities, including online meetings. Our comrades in Dresden have produced a short film that interviews nurses and puts forward our demands for the health system. We are doing everything we can to bring our publishing house, ‘Manifest Verlag’, through the crisis unscathed. Among other things, in May, we are publishing a book, “Pandemic times – Corona, capitalism, crisis and what we can do”, with contributions by Sol members, CWI comrades internationally, and also trade unionists and left-wing activists, book authors, and others.
We are preparing for the time when the restrictions for activities are removed or when the mood in the working class changes and struggles begin. It is clear that then opportunities to build Sol will grow despite a still complicated political situation. But a minority is already drawing anti-capitalist conclusions from this crisis, and Sol is recruiting. To reach out to this minority now is the best preparation for the stormy events ahead.

The following is the text of the latest SOL ‘wall newspaper’:

Protect people instead of profits!

Corona is the virus – capitalism is the pandemic!

The spread of the coronavirus is dangerous and threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of people worldwide. Germany has failed to take early and decisive measures to protect the population in order to prevent an exponential growth of infections. Later, social life was halted, but the profit interests of companies and banks stand in the way. Millions must continue to work in factories, on construction sites, in the service sector and to travel to work on public transport, even though their working activities are not necessary during the crisis. This is absurd and only serves private profiteers. These jobs must be stopped for as long as schools are closed, and restrictions on freedom of movement apply.

Extend tests, produce protective clothing

It is clear that the market is not capable of organising the economy and society in the interest of the population. It is a scandal that weeks after the outbreak of the pandemic there is still a lack of tests, face masks and protective clothing, and that it is still not certain whether the hospital capacities – i.e. the number of intensive care beds, respirators and nurses – will be sufficient to care for all sick people in the future. Apparently, this is unlikely to happen, as the quarantine rules for medical staff have been relaxed by the Robert Koch Institute because there is apparently concern that the pandemic could spiral out of control due to a lack of staff in the hospitals.

Protect workers’ rights!

None of the necessary measures must be implemented at the expense of the wage earning population. All workers who are made redundant or have to stay at home to look after their children must be paid their full wages. Workers who have to continue to work in the current situation and are thus exposed to an increased risk should receive bonuses of at least fifty percent. Healthcare workers should receive a supplement of one hundred percent. On this basis, former nurses and doctors should be mobilised to directly overcome the lack of staff in hospitals. All activities in the hospitals, which are not absolutely necessary medically, must be postponed – the decision on this must be made by committees of doctors and nurses, not by the chief physicians and hospital management. The suspension of minimum staffing levels in hospitals by Minister of Health, Spahn, must be reversed.

Likewise, the hygiene and safety precautions in supermarkets and other workplaces must be defined and controlled by staff and unions. Especially in supermarkets, more staff is needed. For example, to carry out the necessary disinfection of shopping trolleys etc.,

Now the government has changed the legislation on working hours allowing the 12-hour day and shorter rest periods for certain industries. This is an admission of their inability to provide sufficient staff, which would be possible if wages were increased significantly. Together with the lack of protective clothing, the relaxation of quarantine regulations and too little testing, this poses an enormous health risk to staff, which must not be accepted. We reject this deterioration for dependent employees. It may be that, in the event of a disaster, different rules must apply in certain professions. But this must be decided specifically on a case-by-case, basis. Firstly, however, all measures must be taken to prevent this from happening. Secondly, the decision on this must not lie with the governments and capitalists, but with the workers and their trade unions.

The attacks on the rights of wage earners must be fought back. To do this, it is necessary that the trade unions, in particular, start a campaign and use the means of strike action.

Make the rich pay!

These measures must be financed by those who have been concentrating private wealth in their hands for years and do not use it in the interests of society. We, therefore, call for a one-off corona levy of thirty per cent on assets over one million euro to finance the necessary measures. That would generate 480 billion euro. Money-hungry manufacturers and traders are driving up the prices of medicines, disinfectants and protective clothing. Production must be transferred directly to the public sector under the democratic control and management of the working population. Prices must be democratically controlled and ceilings set.

Democratic rights

The ruling class is also using the corona pandemic to further restrict democratic rights, to deploy the Bundeswehr [German army] inside Germany and to prevent mass protests. Political and trade union assemblies must be exempted from all state prohibitions and the decision on how to run these meetings must be placed in the hands of the workers’ and social movements. The lifting of measures to restrict the freedom of movement and the gathering of people must not be done from the perspective of the profit interests of the capitalists. It must be decided democratically by scientists, doctors, trade unions and the working population.

Capitalism makes sick – for socialist democracy

The coronavirus crisis is also a systemic crisis. As long as private corporations are in charge, that will not change. Only if the capitalist competition is replaced by democratic planning and cooperation, only if instead of a few private owners and major shareholders, the working population can decide on production, research etc., these dangers for the people will be eliminated. This pandemic shows that a socialist change of society is urgently needed.

Socialist Organisation Solidarity calls for:

  • Massive expansion of corona tests
  • Requisition of face masks, protective clothing, and respiratory equipment, so they can be used in the fight against the pandemic
  • Emergency plan for the production of face masks, protective clothing, medical equipment, medicines, etc. and food supplies – including the conversion of production under the democratic control of trade unions and workers, and the transfer of companies to public ownership if they do not cooperate
  • Democratic price controls and setting of price ceilings
  • Closure of all businesses for as long as distance rules have to be observed, except those carrying out vital work. The decision to the resumption of work must be made by the trade unions and workforces
  • State aid for wage earners and small business people – not for the big banks and corporations!
  • Full wages for all employees who are released from work or have to stay at home for childcare
  • Risk supplements of 50 percent for employees (100 percent for nursing staff) who have to continue working! Ensure protective clothing!
  • Stop rent increases, tenancy terminations, forced evictions, electricity and gas disconnections – state payment of rents in the event of tenant’s loss of income due to the crisis and then only in the case of proven need of the landlords; suspension of mortgage payments on owner-occupied housing for people with loss of income; introduction of a regulated and controlled cost rent and expropriation of real estate companies for rapid rent reduction
  • Away with ‘Hartz IV’ restrictions on benefits and harassment by the Job Centres: Minimum monthly income and pension of 750 euro plus rent (including heating) for each adult, and 600 euro per child
  • Massive investments in the health care system
  • At least 500 euro permanent monthly wage increase for nursing staff – staff assessment according to need now!
  • Abolition of fixed payments for medical procedures – all treatment and recovery costs to be covered by health insurance companies and the state
  • Nationalization of all privatized hospitals – public health care under democratic control and administration of the working population!
  • Thirty per cent corona levy for millionaires! Confiscation of the planned disbursement of 44 billion euro dividends of joint stock companies (with the exception of small shareholders)
  • Industry and banks in public hands under democratic control and management of the working population

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April 2020