Pandemic of neoliberal capitalism

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Faced with the virus, we humans rediscover our fragility.
But the pandemic reveals other things about our society...

By Alter Summit on March 27, 2020

The unpreparedness of European states, their complacency, forced them to take radical emergency measures such as undifferentiated containment. Confinement is necessary of course to relieve the health system, but it has serious consequences on people’s lives and represents a de facto suspension of many fundamental rights and additional repression in working-class neighbourhoods.

In spite of confinement, most states force their population to go to work; it is impossible to see one’s relatives or friends, but possible to see one’s colleagues. Where is the logic? Endowed with special powers, the states announce the abolition of holidays and the extension of working hours in certain sectors. But there is no question of requisitioning factories to make the masks or fans that will save lives. Nor is there any question of prohibiting the payment of dividends to shareholders!

Budget cuts in health care are paying for themselves with hundreds of deaths. The lack of staff and basic equipment as a result of short-term thinking, the logic of just-in-time, small economies is criminal. However, for several years now there have been major mobilisations in many European countries to denounce the situation of public hospitals and health care in general.

One after the other, states have announced the release of hundreds of billions of euros to face the coming economic crisis. The European Union suspends its austerity treaties. But to save who? First the financial markets, then the major industrial groups affected. What is left for health services or the population? What is left for the working class who lose their jobs, see their benefits reduced or have to continue working without minimum guarantees for their health and that of their relatives? Some states prohibit dismissals, others give companies carte blanche to carry out collective redundancies. Very few take measures to protect the most precarious groups, such as domestic workers, couriers or staff in temporary employment agencies. This will lead to the impoverishment of the working and popular classes.

The richest States of the Planet are incapable of organizing the satisfaction of the basic social needs of their populations. What this crisis reveals is the deadly violence of capitalism. The violence that has been raining down on the peoples of the South for so long and which is now hitting those who thought they were safe.
This pandemic reveals the mediocrity of those who govern us, but above all for whom they work. If we let them, the hundreds of billions of dollars in aid will come out of our own pockets. This will mean even more cuts in health, education, pensions and public service, our only collective protections.

More fundamentally, this crisis is a crisis of global capitalism, of its agro-industry, which is destroying natural habitats allowing more and more viruses to emerge; a crisis of global connectivity that allows it to travel quickly without brakes, a crisis of global logistics that leaves our "big" countries without the tools to fight the virus.

This global pandemic is a cry of alarm for the peoples of the world that reminds us of the dangers of climate change and in the face of which there can be no containment. Organising in the face of this health crisis is already organising for tomorrow’s battles.

The world will have to change or we will run to our doom, faster than expected.
Courage to everyone! The fight goes on!

April 7 is World Health Day
Alter Summit joins forces with the European Network Against the Commercialization of Health, the People’s Health Movement and the EPSU in the "white sheets" action aimed at mounting our support for public health care systems far from market logics*.
Read our common release

Write messages of support to caregivers and hang them on your window with the hashtag #Health4All.
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*The coronavirus crisis dramatically reveals the need for well-resourced public health systems that are accessible to the entire population. These same systems have been weakened by decades of disinvestment and fiscal rigour advocated by neo-liberal policies to promote the commodification of the sector.

This commodification - which is reflected in the development of lucrative private actors but also in the establishment of managerial logics in public entities - as well as the profit logic that accompanies it, are obstacles to an urgent, coherent health response that is addressed to the entire population.

In order to face this unprecedented crisis and prepare for the coming ones, the states must take back control, strengthen the health care systems with additional personnel and equipment, and requisition or nationalize, if necessary, the resources that are currently in private hands and return them to the service of the common good.