Notes on the impacts of the pandemic on workers

Fighting the pandemic by crushing the working class 

Global capitalism and the states response to the pandemic triggered the implosion of the economy. For 37 weeks new unemployment insurance claims in the US were over a million. Worldwide 21 countries are experiencing a famine and 150 million more people have been pushed into extreme poverty as defined in official literature at a miserable $1.90 a day or less in income. An enormous upwards transfer of wealth has occurred in the name of containing a public health emergency. The left has ignored the impact of this economic catastrophe on workers, sadly predictable as workers are invisible to their own class perspectives.

With the political crisis in the US reaching a new height in the wars between the factions that manage the state and their supporters with the storming of the DC Capitol, while it has left four dead, has not resulted in the fascist coup as imagined in the fevered minds of angry liberals. The real power of the state doesn’t lie with the political front men in power, but behind those it advances into power. 

The global standard for extreme poverty currently stands at $1.90usd. This however doesn’t even come close to estimating the extent of poverty. Accordingly the statistics of individual states show much higher poverty rates. Thus the South African government puts forward their own poverty estimate that 55% of the population lives in poverty, while the world bank figure puts it at 18.85%. In historical poverty estimates when a subsistence farmer is torn off the land, their subsequent entry into global labor markets is registered as an increase in wealth rather than reflecting the reality of their dispossession. So when the global economic collapse triggered by the pandemic and the measures states have taken to contain it is said to have forced 150 million people into extreme poverty in 2020, they write of the number of people who are estimated to have $1.90 a day or less. 

In the US state governments took action to impose the lockdowns on a state by state basis. Outside the US this was done mostly on a national basis. This caused a grave impact on a largely service industry oriented working class that was largely depended on smaller employing units for employment. Most jobs in the US are with smaller employers. The lockdown of transportation and imposition of quarantines on travelers hit workers in hospitality very hard. For well over thirty weeks in the US there were over 1 million new unemployment claims a week, unprecedented in the history of their unemployment insurance program. 

In India millions of migrant agricultural laborers were stranded in lockdown hundred of miles away from their homes. Cargo ships were stuck in ports paralyzing international trade. With the restrictions on travel and trade, remittances from workers in the wealthiest centers of imperialism to their countries of origin have collapsed. The World Bank estimates a drop in remittances of 19.7 for 2020, signifying a loss in revenue of about $90 billion. 

According to Forbes the worlds 2,200 plus billionaires got $1,9 trillion dollars richer in total. What is occurring is not so much a fight to protect public health but a means of transferring wealth upwards as fast as possible. This is excellent for the public health of capitalists, but not so much for workers. 

Much of the bourgeois left has positioned itself as guardians of public health do not seem to consider the difficulties this poses for workers. Instead they call for a new category of social wage, a universal basic income. The ruling class that did not want to pay other forms of social wage won’t pay workers unless they are extracting profits from them. A reform that wont happen isn’t going to feed, house or employ anyone. The distance of most leftists from this ongoing experience of the working class greater in this regard. The capitalist class main motive in all things is to accumulate capital while now it hides its true motive behind a mask of false concern for public health.