Photo: Bill Hackwell
It is not entirely true that covid-19 does not distinguish between attacking and, above all, killing. It is possible that biologically there are no differences in skin color, age, or sex, in any of the case studies that will have to be conducted carefully once we have all the details of the cases of infected and dead. But one thing we know already is the vast differences and inequalities in the ways the pandemic is being fought.
It is not the same as the risk of contagion for the delivery man for Amazon who must go out to work every day because otherwise his/her children will go to bed without eating, to the risk taken by the owner of the same company who, while being socially very distant in his mansion, is at the top of the Forbes list with a fortune of 138 billion dollars.
It is not the same to go through quarantine as a Walmart cashier, with all the risk of contagion that this implies, and with a salary that’s not enough to pay for the covid-19 screening test, as it is to go through social distancing as one of the company’s shareholders that is number 13 on the Forbes 2020 list with 54 billion dollars in assets.
It is not the same to fight the coronavirus without a piece of bread to eat because, being a salaried worker and without the ability to save, you have been fired because the transnational company where you work had to close down due to the quarantine, to be the bourgeois owner of the subsidiary.
It is not the same to survive the pandemic living on the streets, without permanent shelter, without having food to eat, without work or salary, as it is to belong to the 1% of the world population that appropriates 82% of the wealth (Oxfam, 2019).
The real evil that today is spreading all over the world and that attacks humanity is inequality, in turn, a consequence of a predatory system of production and distribution through which the bourgeoisie, owner of capital, with the complicity of states that participate minimally in the economies and “let them do their thing”, has been appropriating more and more from the effort of the wage-earning worker. A system that, therefore, generates more and more poverty and that today, in times of coronavirus, becomes more evident.
Coping with the onslaught of the coronavirus pandemic in conditions of poverty is obviously more difficult. Today, 3.7 billion people in the world are poor, or half of its population.
Have we asked ourselves why there are so many poor people in the world or are we going to believe the hegemonic discourse of capitalism that says that the poor are poor because they do not work enough, they do not make an effort, they are not productive, they squander their wages, and therefore they themselves are responsible for their condition of poverty?
Let’s look at some figures and dismantle the lie. World production amounts to 85.9 trillion dollars (this is the sum of the gross domestic product of all countries during 2018 according to World Bank data). Who is supposed to have produced those billions? The rich? The owners of capital? The bourgeoisie?
There are 7,594,270,356 of us in the world, of which, according to the International Labor Organization, 3,428,400,000, or 45% of the total population, belong to the labor force (we who are of productive age and in a position to work). Of these 3.4 billion people in the workforce, 3.294 billion are employed. According to the ILO, only 83 million are employers, that is, only 2.68% are business owners or owners of capital. Call it the Bourgeoisie.
This means that the $85.9 trillion produced worldwide in 2018 is the result of the efforts of 3.208 billion proletarians and 83 million bourgeois.
However, according to Oxfam, 82 percent of the $85.9 trillion produced went to 1 percent of the world’s population (that is, $70.4 trillion was appropriated by only 75 million people). Each of the people in this small group, who are not exactly from the working class, earned an average of $927,630, in 2018, of course, some more than others.
The other 18% of what was produced in the world (15.4 trillion dollars) was distributed among the remaining 99% of the world population (or among 7.5 billion people) which means an average of 2 thousand dollars a year for each one, some more and others less, others nothing. We refer to those who live a day, those who if they do not go out to work do not eat even though they are the ones who produce the 85 billion. Call it the proletarians.
Are poor people really poor because they don’t work? Are you serious?
Could it be that the exploitative capitalist system, in a globalized world full of transnational monopolies, gives the omnipotent power to the owner of capital to fix not only prices but also wages and, by default, profits, subsuming the wage-earners more and more into poverty? Could it be that the product of the work of billions of proletarians in the world is more and more unequally distributed? In the midst of the pandemic that is sweeping humanity, who do you think will be most affected: the 2.68 percent who represent the bourgeois class or the 97.32 percent making up the working class?
According to the ILO, during the first quarter of 2020, the number of working hours decreased by around 4.5%, equivalent to 130 million jobs. They estimate that by the second quarter there will be 305 million jobs. For its part, the UN World Institute for Development Economics Research estimates that about 500 million people could be added to global poverty as a result of the pandemic.
In these times of quarantine when an invisible enemy makes us as vulnerable as humanity, let us reflect. It is not enough to overcome neoliberalism, which is the most savage form of capitalism. Nor is it enough to give the State a little more participation so that, within the framework of an exploitative system such as the capitalist one, it strengthens universal health services and provides free basic education.
We must change the world at the grassroots, eradicate the source of inequality and revise the system of production and distribution based on unequal ownership of the means of production. The post-pandemic world should move towards a fair and equal system. It is necessary to contain capitalism and stop the spread of inequality and poverty that this system exponentially generates.
We are 3.345 billion proletarians. Let us all come together in this struggle! Happy International Workers’ Day, especially those who in times of pandemic risk their lives and those of their loved ones to save humanity!
Translation by Resumen Latinoamericano, North America Bureau