No. 59 
No. 59,
March-April 2020

Table of Contents
Selected articles linked

Click on image to left for pdf version of complete issue.

Coronavirus and Capitalism
Since the beginning of the year 2020, the world has been thrown into an unprecedented crisis by what is now the pandemic of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. First appearing in Wuhan, China, after some initial missteps it has largely been brought under control there by the extraordinary measures enacted by the Chinese government. But now COVID-19 is racing through the capitalist world, ravaging whole regions such as northern Italy, largely due to the criminal failure and outright refusal of the authorities, political and medical, to test widely and quarantine when the numbers of infected were small. Across the U.S., much of the economy has shut down. Meanwhile, the vast bulk of the $2 trillion in “rescue” funds will go to prop up giant corporations like Boeing, while workers get a few crumbs in jobless pay – and millions of immigrants get nothing but stepped-up threats and repression. Where in the centrally planned Chinese economy the shutdown can be temporary, under capitalism the devastation will be vastly greater. In these catastrophic conditions, communists insist that the class struggle continues, and the need for revolutionary leadership is even more acute. We print here the presentation, to a teleconference meeting of the Marxist Study Group in New York. Coronavirus and Capitalism (29 March 2020)

Detained Immigrants in Mortal Danger: Set Them Free!
Shut Down I.C.E. Jails Now!
Some of those most endangered by the coronavirus pandemic are the more than 35,000 immigrants (including over 6,000 children) being held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (I.C.E.) detention centers. With detainees jammed together in close quarters, often in unsanitary conditions, the accelerating spread of the virus could quickly turn these jails into death camps. As desperate prisoners engaged in hunger strikes, dozens of protests across the U.S. have demanded that the detainees be set free. With most of the country under quarantine, protesters have turned to car caravans circling I.C.E. facilities and government offices. Supporters of the Internationalist Group, Revolutionary Internationalist Youth and Class Struggle Education Workers participated, but with revolutionary politics counterposed to those of the liberal organizers. Shut Down I.C.E. Jails Now! (28 April 2020)

As “Chauvinist Hydra” Devours SL/ICL
Some History Ex-Trotskyists Would Like to Keep Hidden
Attentive readers will have noticed that something’s up in the Spartacist League. First Workers Vanguard was reduced from eight pages to four while the SL Political Bureau sidelined the editorial board, “due to the COVID-19 crisis.” Then came the notice that WV had skipped the next issue. Meanwhile, Spartacist announced that a leadership meeting of its International Communist League had furthered the “Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra,” as the bizarre – and transparently dishonest – report on the ICL’s 2017 conference was titled. Two ex-members who had been involved with its Greek group were expelled for “racist” conduct. This followed expulsions last year from its Polish section amid charges of racism and echoing Polish nationalism and anti-Jewish bigotry. Yet, while claiming to fight chauvinism, the ICL has in fact become outright apologists for imperialist chauvinism, from opposing demands to let refugees in to the U.S. and Europe to championing “Brexit.” To underscore the fact that the SL/ICL’s record of chauvinist behavior goes back quite a ways, we reprint a section of our 1998 article on the “Crisis in the ICL” laying out, among other things, how in a fight in the French section the ICL leadership (including present top leaders) explicitly set out to “humiliate” an opposition of leading cadres from North Africa.  Some History Ex-Trotskyists Would Like to Keep Hidden (28 April 2020)

Defend China Against Imperialist Threats and Trade War!
U.S. Response to Coronavirus: China-Bashing and War Moves

On April 21, two U.S. warships entered the South China Sea. This is a new step in the continual provocations in which the U.S. repeatedly trespasses into China’s territorial waters. This incursion could presage aggressive moves against the several islands, shoals and reefs in this strategic waterway where China has established military and research facilities to ward off imperialist attack. The military escalation is part of a campaign by the administration of Republican president Donald Trump to target China in order to divert attention from the U.S.’ disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. But the anti-China campaign is bipartisan. The current aggressive military posture against China did not start with Trump, but rather with Obama. In the U.S. today there is wall-to-wall China-bashing extending from right-wing Republicans to liberal Democrats (and most of the left). The imperialist rulers are determined to “take back China,” and have been ever since the 1949 revolution, because the very existence of a Chinese workers state, even bureaucratically deformed, is a threat to their world domination. The League for the Fourth International calls for all U.S. warships, bases and troops out of Asia and to defeat the U.S. imperialist drive for counterrevolution in China. U.S. Response to Coronavirus: China-Bashing and War Moves (27 April 2020)

In the Time of Coronavirus
A Tale Of Two Cities: Wuhan – New York

The discovery of a new infectious disease now referred to as COVID-19 in late December 2019 was dealt with very differently at its point of origin in Wuhan, China and in New York City, which has since become the epicenter. In China, after initial missteps, everyone who tested positive for coronavirus was hospitalized or sent to an isolation center. Orders swiftly went out to erect two new hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, which was accomplished, within ten days, from start to finish. In New York, after the governor and mayor bragged about having the best medical system in the world and that they were going to “kick coronavirus ass,” the hospitals were soon overwhelmed. A series of improvised steps to expand capacity – a militarized “hospital” in a convention center, a naval hospital ship, a field hospital set up by a proselytizing, anti-Islamic, homophobic Christian evangelical outfit – were a mess. Worse yet, people testing positive for coronavirus were not hospitalized or isolated but sent home, where they could infect family members and others. The experience of two cities – Wuhan and New York City – in the coronavirus crisis is a powerful proof of the qualitative superiority of a centralized, socialized planned economy which is geared to fill social needs rather than the chaos of capitalism. A Tale Of Two Cities: Wuhan – New York (24 April 2020)

CSWP Calls for Workers Action in Coronavirus Crisis
Our brothers and sisters in Class Struggle Workers – Portland have issued a call for action by the unions and workers organizations in the face of the current coronavirus/economic crisis. Working people – and particularly those who live paycheck to paycheck – are being pushed into unbearable situations. The CSWP raised a series of demands including that all workers unable to work because of the virus should get full pay for time missed, all workers should be provided with needed personal protective equipment as they determine, all testing and medical treatment should be free and available on demand. Additional calls included for health and safety committees, to be elected at every workplace, free childcare facilities for all who need them, stopping the raids and deportations, shutting down the detention centers, as well as others. While the ruling parties are exploiting this crisis, with the lives and livelihoods of so many workers and oppressed people in the balance, the only way forward is class struggle. CSWP Calls for Workers Action in Coronavirus Crisis

For Class-Struggle Unionism! Organize the Unorganized! No Safety, No Work!
As the COVID-19 Pandemic Rages, Workers Fight for Health and Safety

As the deadly coronavirus pandemic has spread throughout the United States, some 95% of the population is under “stay at home” orders by state governments and local municipalities. At the same time, millions of workers continue to go to work, performing vital tasks while facing grave risks to their health and lives. Nurses, doctors, orderlies and other health-care workers are in the front ranks of this battle, heroically treating the sick, often in horrendously overcrowded medical facilities. In addition, the frontline workers include public transit workers, postal workers and delivery workers, as well as grocery store, drug store, deli, food service, cleaning and other service workers. Even in these jobs that truly are essential in providing basic necessities, the bosses’ criminal disregard for workers’ health and safety has led to widespread protests, walkouts and strikes. What can and must emerge out of this crisis is a newly invigorated labor movement. But a continuation of the same old legalistic “business unionism,” such as has been practiced by the AFL-CIO trade-union bureaucracy for many decades, is a dead end. What’s desperately needed is a labor movement based upon the program of class struggle, of the working class mobilizing its own social power of behalf of all the oppressed, in a fight leading to international socialist revolution. As the COVID-19 Pandemic Rages, Workers Fight for Health and Safety (13 April 2020)

Chelmsford, MA UPS Workers:
No Safety, No Work!

UPDATE: Faced with the failure of UPS to take action, on April 3, union activist Mike Gath issued a second leaflet, again demanding, “NO SAFETY, NO WORK!” Job actions, walkouts and protests are breaking out in many workplaces around the U.S. against employers’ brutal indifference to elementary health and safety during the coronavirus crisis.
At the Chelmsford, Massachusetts UPS facility, union officials and workers have denounced the fact that, while management plays company videos boasting about making lots of money during the crisis, the bosses at the round-the clock facility did not inform the 1,500 workers about COVID-19 cases there, nor did they provide any forms of protection for the workers. We print here a flier by Mike Gath, an activist in Teamsters Local 25 who has worked at the UPS facility in Chelmsford, Massachusetts for over a decade. No Safety, No Work! (3 April 2020)

Let Cruise Workers Off Death Ships Now!
Solidarity with the Trapped Seamen: We Demand Testing, Treatment, Housing, Union-Scale Wages and the Right to Repatriation!

Maritime workers are among those who have been hit hard by the cornoavirus pandemic. Particularly vulnerable have been crews on giant cruise ships, not only deck hands and engine room workers but also hundreds of food service, cleaning and maintenance personnel and others. With up to 3,000 passengers and over 1,000 crew members crammed together in tight spaces, “social distancing” is impossible. The densely packed vessels act as incubators, greatly accelerating the transmission of COVID-19, turning these party ships into death ships. When cruise liners have finally been able to dock, passengers have been allowed to disembark, but the crews have been confined on board and the ships ordered out to sea to circle for weeks as the disease spreads. In the San Francisco Bay Area, trade unionists and community groups have protested in solidarity with the crew of the Grand Princess. As the giant cruise companies fly “flag of convenience” and pay crews poverty wages, there should be a massive campaign to organize the crews in real unions, but that will require replacing the moribund leadership of the trade-union movement with class-struggle leadership. Let Cruise Workers Off Death Ships Now! (22 April 2020)

To Meet Urgent Demand, Workers Power Is Key
How Capitalism Sabotaged Ventilator Production

As the coronavirus pandemic ravages the country, with New York City as the epicenter, hospitals and government at all levels have been caught wholly unprepared. A
cut-throat ventilator bidding war is going on, in which state governments compete against each other and federal agencies to get their hands on these desperately-needed life-saving devices. There should be a crash program to produce tens of thousands of new ventilators – yesterday! So why hasn’t that happened? Ventilator manufacturers are loath to ramp up production on the massive scale needed because it would virtually eliminate their profits. The ventilator shortage has been known for years. Medical professionals and even some government officials had been ringing the alarm bells, warning that a pandemic would leave U.S. hospitals in the lurch. But when a federal program was begun in 2008 to purchase up to 40,000 new ventilators, the company was bought out by a larger competitor in order to stop production of the lower-cost machine. Workers at General Electric have called on the company to rehire laid-off workers and retool plants to produce the vital machines. Faced with the refusal of the bosses to do so, GE workers should take control to gear up ventilator production, on the road to socialist revolution. How Capitalism Sabotaged Ventilator Production (14 April 2020) 
While Chinese Workers State Contained Outbreak
Coronavirus Pandemic Ravages Italy, Overwhelms Capitalist Medical System

Italy is where the novel coronavirus hit Western Europe first and hardest. The exploding public health disaster reflects the massive cuts in health care that have been carried out over the last decade. The result has been devastating, dramatically exposing the inability of the capitalist system to protect the lives of the population, much less provide adequate medical care. In contrast to the bleak and terrifying picture of the situation in capitalist Italy where the coronavirus pandemic continues to rage out of control, by mid-March China had largely beaten back the pandemic. The scope of the successful actions and coordination in China against the coronavirus could only be done in a workers state with a planned economy. In Italy, there has been a wave of spontaneous strikes and walkouts across the country as workers refuse to labor without protective clothing and equipment and safe conditions. The structural chaos and anarchy of the capitalist economy is determined by production for profit, which renders it incapable of effective coordinated intervention. We call for workers control as part of the struggle for socialist revolution, in Italy and internationally.
Coronavirus Pandemic Ravages Italy, Overwhelms Capitalist Medical System (4 April 2020)

To contact the League for the Fourth International or its sections, send an e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com