SOCIALIST REVOLUTIONARY WORKERS’ PARTY WESTERN CAPE REGIONAL OFFICE – HARRY GWALA HOUSE
Each time there is a world capitalist crisis, one of the easy targets for cutting state expenses has been the health sector. This has been an international trend.
There was already signs in 2019 of a collapse in the world economy. Germany saw its lowest growth since 2009. There was a wave of retrenchments including here in South Africa. The various state responses to the Corona virus focuses on the assistance to companies and not to the impoverished working class. Nowhere is there any attention on the informal sector and the 40% unemployed, many of whom do not have any food and have little access to water. That gold mining is regarded as ‘essential’ shows the callous disregard of the government for the lives of mineworkers as well as the callous nature of the imperialist and monopoly capitalists who regard our lives as expendable, as long as they get their profits. This shows that the state has been captured by international monopoly capital. It also raises questions on the ‘donation’ by Rupert and Oppenheimer. Was this a bribe? That the ‘Social solidarity fund’ is headed by capitalists is a contradiction in terms. Capitalist production is based on the organised theft of the wealth produced by the working class. Social solidarity is fundamental and should be headed by credible social players, of which there are many.
In South Africa, in 1996 the govt adopted Gear policy and in the first year since then the health budget only increased by 0.4%. In the 2 years after that it dropped by -8.1% and -2.4% respectively. (Bletcher et al). In other words there was a cut in health care. This has led to closing of hospitals and the reduction of staff. Since 2011/12 the health budget has only increased by an average of 1.8% per annum. This is a consistent cut in real terms. Over this recent period more than 11000 posts were cut. Thus we find ourselves facing a world pandemic with far reduced capacity to treat emergency cases. On the other hand the capacity in the private sector has grown but these are out of reach of the vast majority of the masses and is run on a profit-first basis.
In Italy there was 37 billion euros cut from their health care budget, the number of hospitals was cut by 15%, 70 000 hospital beds cut. The European union has 5 hospital beds per 1000 people while Italy, after the cuts, only had 3. They had also reduced the number of intensive care beds to only 5200. The lack of intensive care beds in Italy was directly responsible for the high death rate and it is estimated that most cases could have been saved. In Germany there were plans to close half of all hospital beds. Already in the USA, half of all counties do not even have any intensive care beds. (Ingar Solty from Rosa Luxembourg research Institute).
We can conclude that any preventable death from the coronavirus in South Africa can be laid at the door of the SA government policies.
From the 2019/20 Budget we can see that over the years there has been a total declared profit of at least R1 trillion per annum. What we have seen, since 1994, if not also before, there has been an investment strike by the capitalists who took most of their profits, our sweat and blood, offshore. The state must also be blamed to paying the apartheid debt, which was odious and should have been scrapped. They also reduced the tax rate on profits from 48% to 28%, thus placing the burden on the shoulders of the working class. The state failed to prosecute the mining monopolies and others who carried and still carry off R200bn each year in illegal transfer pricing (Newman, Fine and Ashman, Journal of Southern African Studies).
Privatization of health has been extreme in the semi-colonies and even in the imperialist centres. This has gone hand in hand with the collapse of the public health sector.
According to the Economist, international banks are receiving over $2.5 trillion in bailouts while it would take $40 billion to eradicate world hunger. This means that under capitalism, the billions of the masses will always have compromised immune systems. This hunger and slavery is systemic.
This systemic capitalist drive is primarily responsible for the rapid spread of the Coronavirus and of future viruses and disease. The WHO (World Health Organization) states that already there are annual flu and other epidemics. This infects 6 million worldwide in a serious manner and results in up to 650 000 deaths annually. Most of them are preventable. The capitalist system kills.
Cheng et all, in 2007, already warned about the dangers of the existence of wild animal markets and in particular about the dangers of spreading zoonotic disease such as SARS-CoV and other coronaviruses. [Zoonotic diseases are those that are animal in origin and that can mutate and shift over to infecting humans]. Until all wild animal markets have been closed, there should also be consideration of suspending all ties with those countries that still have them. As far as possible, local production should be encouraged, as it also reduces the stress on the oceans and the environment in general.
The state is proposing a lockdown for 21 days. However, there is no plan to feed the 40% unemployed and those whose low income places them on the point of starvation. By contrast the goldmining greed of Anglo American and other imperialist monopolies are fully catered for. In the absence of a plan to feed the masses it is fundamental that the working class and broader masses provide social solidarity. ‘Social distancing’ will not save the working class from infection nor from illness. We stay in overcrowded backyards and shacks and tiny RDP houses which is so small that if social distancing is to be truly practised then half the family would be outside. 40% are unemployed and 29% earn less than the already low ‘minimum wage’. This is why we are calling for the setting up of grassroots social solidarity committees. They must operate with stringent hygiene and physical distance measures, where possible co-ordinate remotely through whatsApp but at no stage should anyone go hungry. The time is long overdue to help boost the low immunity of the masses. No elder nor any child must go hungry in this period. No unemployed nor anyone without the necessary funds should go hungry. We should all get nutritious food. Everyone should get adequate water. All water that was cut off should be reconnected and those without water should get it. Let’s together see to that. At same time let us ensure the safety and health of all those who have to work at this time. Their safety first, no matter if there are some delays. The state must take responsibility for its failures.
Our immediate programme is as follows
1. Immediate and full access to water and sanitation – a major defence against the virus is washing hands with soap on a regular basis. We must demand that the state set up thousands if not millions of temporary hand washing facilities across South Africa. This must start with the immediate provision of water to informal settlements, taxi ranks, train stations, shopping malls, clinics, schools, libraries, community halls etc. All places of employment must be compelled to install water/soap points or sanitisers. Our trade unions must monitor this. The armed forces must be organised to deliver water to all areas where there is no water available. Trade unions must be allowed to operate to oversee that workers are not exploited at this time. Trade unions are an essential service.
2. NUMSA has also consistently called for our hospitals to be nationalized, and for private healthcare to be abolished in its entirety. The government of Spain has nationalized all private hospitals in response to the coronavirus in order to guarantee quality healthcare for all who are affected. Our government is silent on this question. NUMSA has also consistently called for our hospitals to be nationalized, and for private healthcare to be abolished in its entirety. The government of Spain has nationalized all private hospitals in response to the coronavirus in order to guarantee quality healthcare for all who are affected. Our government is silent on this question. NUMSA has also consistently called for our hospitals to be nationalized, and for private healthcare to be abolished in its entirety. The government of Spain has nationalized all private hospitals in response to the coronavirus in order to guarantee quality healthcare for all who are affected. Our government is silent on this question. NUMSA has also consistently called for our hospitals to be nationalized, and for private healthcare to be abolished in its entirety. The government of Spain has nationalized all private hospitals in response to the coronavirus in order to guarantee quality healthcare for all who are affected. Our government is silent on this question.That all private hospitals and services to be nationalised and private health care facilities to be abolished. – away with the two-tier health system!
3. A coronavirus testing system that is free – we reject the payment of a fee for testing for the virus and it must be free to all people at all facilities, whether they be private or public hospitals and clinics. The immediate roll out of testing stations to all areas of need, where people can access them within walking distance.
4. There should be the rollout of mobile clinics where there are no medical facilities. People who have chronic illnesses who used to go and queue in clinics early in the morning, must be provided their medication in their homes. All care workers should be insourced at full state pay, receive updated training on the Coronavirus, and deployed where necessary.
5. The state must immediately take command of all laboratories – this will allow a more efficient and well run system of testing where results will be released timeously.
6. Production and free distribution of appropriate masks and gloves – every person in the country must have an appropriate mask to protect themselves against the virus. First priority must go to all in the medical sector, across the board, from doctors, to nurses, admin and cleaners. The state must set up mass production facilities for the production of masks, gloves and other protection equipment immediately, using existing trained workforce and space as well as from the pool of 100 000 retrenched clothing workers.
7. The production of essential medical equipment – essential medical equipment like drips, protective clothing etc needs to be produced on a large scale immediately. These will be critical for establishing temporary quarantine facilities. This will only be able to be done on the basis that such factories be expropriated as is taking place in many countries of the world to deal with the virus.
8. Feeding schemes in townships and all working class areas and rural areas that are in need to meet the needs of children who are not any longer at school as well as hungry and malnourished members of the community. Set up key feeding points at churches, community halls and other spaces.
9. Food parcels for all those people who are ill and in isolation or quarantine.
10. A basic income grant for the unemployed - the working class and their children suffer high levels of malnutrition and are food insecure. In order to fight the virus the immune system must be boosted by nourishing food which the unemployed and poor do not have access to.
11. The closure of all non-essential production, with full income to those affected (initially for one month, but longer if necessary); safe working conditions in industries essential to the functioning of society. No retrenchment of any worker.
12. No dismissal or retrenchment of workers who are ill. Guaranteed full pay, separate from annual leave, for all workers who are ill or for firms that have stopped operating or are on short time. This must not impact the leave due to workers nor the UIF payments . Companies must make extra-ordinary arrangements to ensure that they carry these workers till they can return to work.
13. The State implement strict adherence to WHO rules governing cleanliness and safety in the workplace.
14. The state make working class transport safer – the working class travel in taxis and trains that are overcrowded. While laws governing this has been promulgated communities structures together with taxi associations must monitor this to ensure it is implemented. No physical collection of fees for transport, to protect the drivers and assistants.
15. Cut interest rates down to zero for the duration of the epidemic and create stimulus packages for the economyCut interest rates to zero for the duration of the epidemic and cancel all home loan and debt repayments for the next three months or until things get back to normal.
16. All existing masks and protective material and equipment should be prioritised firstly to all staff in hospitals and clinics as well as the GP's who are in the front line, this includes the drs, nurses, admin, , cleaners and other support staff.
17. We call for the hotels, spare rooms of the rich and all vacant buildings to be immediately opened to all homeless and backyarders , so as to abolish homelessness overnight. Rent, Bond, loans, electricity, water and other account payments must be scrapped, at least for the lockdown. Basic services must be free. Housing accommodation must be built to abolish overcrowding and homelessness. Nkandla, Tynhuis, Mahlambandlovu and Ministerial and MEC residences should also be made available for accommodation as well as quarantine. Anyone who becomes sick must be given all the care and support for them to recover.
18. We call for the closure of all mines and non-essential production for 1 month, except those that support the electricity and other essential services. and even then, stringent health measures should be put in place.
19. There should be free data and wifi to enable free communication, social solidarity and immediate education of the masses and the youth, who are home-based.
20. The banks should be nationalised and centralised so that all the necessary resources can be made available to fight and eradicate the virus. Increase the tax on profits on the big companies while giving tax breaks to smaller and smallbusiness. The companies who fleeced the country through illegal mechanisms such as transfer pricing should be expropriated without compensation and placed under workers control
21. Scrap the apartheid debt and all debt owed to banks and international institutions.
22. Expropriate all imperialist companies as they have been responsible for the world degradation of the environment and thus in major part responsible for the yearly spread of flu and infectious diseases
23. If there is any single death on any mine or large company , they should be expropriated without compensation and placed under workers control
24. We need to assist neighbouring states and extend social and practical solidarity
25. We call on Saftu to lead the immediate coordination of all federations and independent unions in defence of workers health and safety along the above lines.
26. We support a moratorium on all evictions, including of students from hostels and an end to water and electricity cutoffs
27. We call for immediate release of all Palestinian political prisoners who are now in danger of deliberate infection by the zionists. All exports to israel including coal and diamonds should be indefinitely be suspended. Let us flatten the curve to end the virus of zionism once and for all.
28. Stop the lockdown on Kashmir; end fascism in India, end the imperialist intervention in Yemen and Syria.; lift sanctions on Iran, let the masses in Iran deal with their own anti-worker regime through their own methods; solidarity with the Rhoyinga and all masses oppressed by the Burmese regime.
29. End the plunder of the DRC and the entire Africa and neo-colonial world.
30. For international, social and working class solidarity to end the capitalist virus, the source of all pandemics such as corona.
31. The immediate seizing of all large commercial farms, transport and distribution of food and large retailers. This is to bring food production under rational production and distribution to ensure that everyone get nutritious meals and to abolish hoarding and to abolish profiteering from this crisis. The opening of hygienic, food distribution points in all areas. The immediate banning of Monsanto and all pesticides that are harmful to people and the environment and the introduction of nature-friendly farming methods.
32. The seizing of all alcohol, soap and detergent production supply chains to ensure the the adequate production of soap and sanitizers for all hospitals and clinics and the broader population.
33. Immediate price controls on all goods and the setting up of community and workplace worker-price committees.
34. Clarifying that the nationalizing of banks do not include the expropriation of private savings and pensions but purely focused on the ill-gotten gains of the capitalist class and the centralization of all available resources.
35. The immediate increase of productive capacity in all countries of the world with the provision of 3d printers and training so that local production of all components for respirators and necessary equipment is possible.
36. The immediate suspension of patents related to the production of the necessary medical support so that all essential materials and medications can be locally produced.
Let us engage in social solidarity with all the countries in Southern Africa and the rest of Africa to coordinate our response and share expertise and resources.
There must be sustained increase in health budgets, in the public sector for free, quality, health for all and not the capitalist notion of insurance.
· We must defend the working class! The building of grassroots Solidarity Action Committees must proceed immediately. No to discrimination against any foreign nationals, including in the informal sector. Let us make sure that we care for all the sick, for all who need nutrition and care. At the same time, all the best precautions for the medical and support services. No one must be left behind. We need real social solidarity. The best social solidarity can however only be provided under Socialism on a world scale.
26 March 2020
Socialist Revolutionary Workers Party
SRWP Western Cape : email email@example.com