The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Be a Warrior for Our Class

May 18, 2020

The following article was the editorial in Spark workplace newsletters of May 10.

Trump called on workers to be “warriors” for the economy. Risk going back to work, as 2,000 people continue to die every day from the virus.

Well, if Trump wants to be a “warrior,” let him. Let him risk dying. Let him give up being tested every day, as he is now, to protect his health.

But don’t let him dare call on us to go into work under conditions that guarantee more infections, and a steadily growing death toll.

We are in this mess because no public agency prepared for a new epidemic—despite the clear warnings given by SARS and MERS. No public agency put enough money into research so there would already be a vaccine that might prevent any disease provoked by the corona family of viruses. No county or state set aside funds so public health departments would be prepared to test and trace whenever a new disease appeared. Counties and states had other priorities—handing out money to corporations and other capitalists, propping up their profits.

As for the federal government, and its Federal Emergency Management Agency—even its name is a joke. The only thing it managed was lucrative cost-plus-big-profit contracts for private companies every time there was an emergency: flood, fire, hurricane, earthquake or disease. Forget about stocking basic protective equipment. FEMA didn’t do it. Even hospitals forgot about it. Too focused on making profit, directly or indirectly. And no medical insurance company even thought about stocking protective equipment; their aim was simply to make profit on the population’s ills.

The basic problem is not a new virus, it’s capitalist society, organized for the pursuit of profit, no matter what or who is harmed by that.

Today, the governors are beginning to open up the states, letting companies send us into work while nearly 2,000 people are still dying every day. All the governors are doing it in one way or another. The capitalist class they serve cries out for help in resuming their profit stream.

More of us are being called back to join those who never stopped working under unsafe conditions. Those who never stopped working show what will happen to the rest of us.

Meatpacking, for example, worked all through the shutdowns. Tens of thousands have already tested positive. Many dozens, if not hundreds, have died: not only the workers in these plants, but also their families, their neighbors, as well as people in the shops and cafes in the little towns where the plants are located.

Well, meatpacking is a factory. People work on lines, with too few bathroom facilities, with limited space in break areas. The whole set-up crowds workers on top of each other. Is this really different from factories any of us know?

Grocery stores also worked all through the shutdowns. Walmart, for example, had to close some of its stores, when they became centers of an outbreak, with hundreds infected, including people who shopped in the stores. How is Walmart different from the other retail stores and public venues that governors now talk about opening?

Caterpillar has a small factory in Illinois that never stopped working. Several workers died, more contracted the disease. Was it worth it? Caterpillar and its stockholders probably think so. Because on April 8, the company paid out 500 million dollars in dividends to its stockholders.

This is what it means for us to be “warriors” for Trump’s economy: to die by the thousands so the capitalist class can make millions.

We should be “warriors,” but not for Trump, not for any governor, not for the capitalist class. We should think about fighting, but for ourselves, for our families, for our neighborhoods—all those who make up our class, the working class.

Of course, we want to go to work, to have a job. But we also want to be safe. Our first job every day should be to organize our workplace so our safety is put first. Our last job should be to verify that we are all still healthy. We certainly can figure out how to do these things. Doing them, we will start being warriors of our class, the working class.