Cooperation Jackson, “an emerging vehicle for sustainable community development, economic democracy, and community ownership,” based in Jackson, Mississippi, has issued the following proposal for a mass response to the Covid-19 crisis.
It’s time to transform our broken and inequitable society, and build a new society run by and for us – the working-class, poor, oppressed majority.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the world before our very eyes. In less than three months, it has exposed the grotesque nature of the capitalist system to millions, ground the world economy to a halt, and revealed how truly interconnected our little planet really is.
As bad as this crisis is on its own terms, it is made considerably worse by the misleadership from the White House, Congress, and many state and local governments.
President Trump not only failed to heed the advice of the state’s intelligence services regarding the potential threat of the coronavirus, but he downplayed its severity for months, and has refused to mobilize the vast resources at the disposal of the US government to address the crisis. He continues to deny the science and proven medical advice, and is now threatening to retract social distancing orders and call for everyone to return to work.
A bipartisan Congress just passed the largest corporate bailout in history, which provided paltry relief to most working people in the form of a one-time payoff that won’t even cover most people’s rent and utilities for a month. The Governors of Mississippi, Florida, and Georgia have refused to shut their states down and give clear stay-at-home orders to halt the spread of the virus. And the Federal Reserve is doing everything it can to protect Wall Street.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. Disaster capitalism and white supremacy are running amok. The Trump alliance of the neo-fascist right, combined with sectors of finance capital, the fossil fuel industry, and the religious right are exploiting this crisis to accelerate climate change, reshape society, and redefine the geopolitical order.
In the midst of this pandemic, they have eliminated critical environmental protection standards (reducing already poor air quality, giving new, horrible life to the Black Lives Matter slogan borne of Eric Garner’s murder, “I can’t breathe” as millions struggle for air).
Trump has eliminated various health and safety standards to protect workers and consumers, undermining unions and other working-class organizations. He has allowed genetically modified plants to be unleashed in protected lands, expanded roundup and deportation operations, and refused to provide adequate medical treatment of federal prisoners.
Right now, the federal response is being driven by finance ministers and corporations, rather than the medical experts and front-line workers directly addressing the response to the pandemic, abandoning the potential power of a coordinated federal response.
All of this is just a sample of the crimes against humanity unfolding daily at the hands of the White House. We must do everything we can to intervene.
The question is: how?
To fight back, we have to use the greatest power we have at our disposal: our collective labor.
We can shut the system down to break the power of the state and capitalist class.
We must send a clear message that things cannot and will not go back to “normal.” In order to do this, we need to call for collective work and shopping stoppages, leading to a general strike that is centered around clear, comprehensive demands. We must make demands that will transform our broken and inequitable society, and build a new society run by and for us – the working-class, poor, oppressed majority.
In order for a general strike to not only take place right now, but also be effective, we need to develop a broad united front organized around short-term and long-term aims. We need to assess connections between unions of all sorts and organized labor, and begin reaching out to other poor and working-class people from within our places of work, our places of living, our places of worship, and our places of leisure.
A general strike will take resources to sustain. We are going to have to call for (and rely upon) our collective resources. This includes our own individual purchasing power, but also the mobilization of the collective resources at the disposal of our unions, civic organizations, mutual aid, and spiritual institutions. We need to make sure that we can provide aid to workers on the front lines of the health struggle, and the front lines of the supply chain struggles. This means providing mutual aid where warranted, as well as strike funds to support workers from losing their homes, cars, medical care, and other essential expenses.
Those who control the land, the property, and the businesses want you to believe that this COVID-19 crisis is going to blow over soon, and that everyone will simply go back to work. They want you to believe that things will return to “normal” within a matter of months, and even weeks. Right now, poor and working-class people have an opportunity to make it clear to the ruling classes that not only was “normal” abnormal to begin with, but that we are not going to settle for a return to the social and economic conditions that created this pandemic to begin with.
We should take inspiration in the fact that we are not alone in calling for and acting upon a call for a general strike. Workers throughout the country and the world are spontaneously taking matters into their own hands. Auto workers, chicken factory workers, nurses, drivers, grocery store workers, and more are all taking independent action. Calls for rent strikes are going viral as working poor and homeless workers are starting to occupy hundreds of vacant homes to meet their needs and practice the necessary social distancing to ensure their survival.
This crisis changes everything. We have an opportunity to take control.
- Protect All Front-line Workers in the Hospitals, the Supply Chains, and the Farms and Fields to ensure they have all of the equipment and disinfectant materials that they need to keep themselves and the general public healthy
- Protect Asians and other vulnerable communities, including the homeless, migrants, and refugees from discrimination and attack in this time of crisis
- Democratize the Means of Production, Convert the Corporations and Workplaces into Cooperatives to produce what we need and distribute equitably according to need
- Institute Universal Health Care Now
- Institute Universal Basic Services Now (Education, Childcare, Elderly Care, Water, Electricity, Internet, etc.) based on Economic, Social and Cultural rights guidelines
- Institute Universal Basic Income Now
- Democratize the Finance, Credit and Insurance Industries – Bailout the People, Not the Corporations and Wall Street
- Decarbonize the Economy, Institute a Green New Deal based on a Just Transition. End the Fossil Fuel and Extractive Industries Now
- Housing is a Human Right. Decommodify Housing Now. Open all available housing stock to those who need it now
- Ensure there is clean drinking water for all communities. Decommodify water now
- Cancel Our Debts. Institute a Debt Jubilee Now
- Close the Jails, Close the Prisons, Release the Prisoners
- Close the Detention Centers, Reunite the Families, Stop the Raids and Deportations
- Close all of the Overseas Military Bases, cut the Military (Defense) and Spy (Surveillance) budgets and redirect these funds to Health Care, Social Services, Universal Basic Income, and Greening Public Infrastructure and the Economy
For more information, please visit cooperationjackson.org