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The covid-19 pandemic: the human species facing its choices. A new era for the Left

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by Neolaia Syriza (youth of Syriza)

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the limits of humanity towards nature, especially at a time when the climate crisis is deteriorating, daily, the living conditions on the planet. Whether we are talking about natural disasters or unknown diseases and pandemics, the human species remains exposed to its choices, the squandering of natural resources and the lack of respect for other living beings. At the end of the day, we forget that we are an integral part of an ecosystem.

 

Covid-19 has proven that the human species is “vulnerable” to a real threat that, in essence, proves that the modern capitalist way of organizing societies fails to protect life itself. It sets priorities and forms an organizational framework that seeks to impose its own ‘ideas’ and its own ‘principles’ even on the values that give meaning to human life and death. At the same time, nature is for the “capital doctrine” a field of imposition and domination. Throughout human history, pandemics have played a pivotal role in the course of life and have made indelible cuts in the structure and organization of societies. The emergence of the modern state in the West is not unrelated to the plague in the 14th century. Urban planning and socialist ideas emerged in the Europe of the Industrial Revolution, following the epidemics caused by the horrible living conditions of the proletariat.

 

The pandemic in combination with the climate crisis has created the ground for the formation of a new perception of the course of humanity. The need to collectively address two existing threats, to defend life against the threat of extinction, form a favorable field for the “rediscovery” of the collective way, the need to support the public sector guided by public health, the re-emergence of the logic that there are no individual solutions to collective problems, the emergence of universality as an integral part of collective prosperity. This ground can be for the left a beacon of political creation and the emergence of a plan to challenge the existing social and economic model. Solidarity should be a unifying factor for the oppressed, the excluded, the victims of war, refugees and migrants, workers and all those who experience the abuse of their rights, young people who suffocate from a future without perspective. Advocating the prospect of the collective improvement of life creates new fields of ideological and political conflict, and new tasks for the left itself.

 

In an era of pandemic, climate crisis, mass displacement, refugee and migration flows from wars and poverty, a new severe economic crisis is looming in the very near future. In the realm of economics, the new crisis is creating a suffocating framework for work and a spike in unemployment with the most notable example being the more than 40 million unemployed people created by the health crisis in the United States. At the same time, the condition of the crisis will result in the destruction of small and medium companies that will not be able to survive in the new economic and social reality.

 

At the same time, however, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors showed two real facts. The first one is related to the emergence, globally, of the weaknesses of the national health systems and the results of their undermining by the neoliberal impunity. The covid-19 pandemic hit the USA like no other country on the planet, with thousands dead and millions of people affected by the virus. The management of the pandemic by the American government failed to protect the vulnerable groups of the population, while leaving the defenseless, the weak and the marginalized people, completely without even access to the health system, which is a privilege of the few. The poor social classes, the ones that do not matter for the Mecca of capitalism, were left abandoned, while the effects of the health crisis on the economy plunged unemployment to unprecedented levels.

Italy, China and a number of countries where the public health system has been repeatedly undermined in the name of profit, made clear the limits of an “economic and political logic”, which does not operate in terms of prevention and protection of public health, but rather profit. On the other hand, the pandemic itself and its response, in the field of medicine and vaccine, is a new favorable field of “investment boom” for big capital and pharmaceutical giants around the world, highlighting new geopolitical conflicts and contradictions at the base, this time, of the very management of people’s lives.

 

In Greece, the New Democracy government, once again taking the “crisis opportunity”, unfolded aspects of a political plan, which perceives the state as loot, operates in terms of entanglement and uses the pandemic to attack labor and democratic rights. The redistribution of wealth and power from the many to the few dominates every choice of the Government. In the name of managing the effects of the financial crisis, collective bargaining has been struck, wages have been reduced, shift work has been inflated, redundancies have been facilitated and labor rights have been reinstated, without any substantial concern to deal with the permanently rising unemployment. At the same time, there has not been any substantial support towards the people of culture and art workers, who have not only been treated disparagingly by the government, but have been targeted for claiming the obvious. In the midst of restrictive measures, the Government passed an environmental law that allows heavy investment activities, such as mining activities and hydrocarbon extraction in NATURA areas, while paving the way for their commercial and tourist development. The first movement of resistance against the government elections became visible when ecological organizations, leftist organizations and civil society organizations demanded the withdrawal of the Hatzidakis (Minister of Environment) law and challenged the plans of the New Democracy.

After the end of the quarantine measures, the government chose to respond with savage repression against young people who gathered in the squares, in Athens and Thessaloniki. The phenomena of severe repression and the forms of police violence in the squares are part of a more comprehensive plan to attack our democratic freedoms. With fear and police violence as their allies, a new “normality” is built where young people are targeted. It is no coincidence that after the quarantine and one year since its rule, New Democracy has chosen to pass the bill on preventing demonstrations, which directly affects our democratic freedoms and violates the constitutional right of the collectively reacting, at the same time that the economic situation in the country in the coming months is projected to be particularly painful with optimistic estimates pointing to a recession of 7% and pessimists arguing for a recession of 15%.

 

The new conditions we are experiencing, raise before us key questions and concern the societies we want to live in. Can the logic of profit and competition create a safety framework for human health and employment? Can the current economic organization structure of society and the priorities set by the system curb the climate crisis? Is it possible to ensure the protection and access to “common goods”, such as water, if everything around us is perceived as areas of accumulation of profit and wealth? After all, can the capitalist way of organizing modern societies ensure the social cohesion, equality, justice and progress of humanity?

 

Those political questions require changes in priorities. They demand, first of all, in-depth dialogue, an understanding of reality, they demand political battles and a new strategy that realizes that the class struggle and the questioning of the modern capitalist mode of production, of neoliberalism that is grafted daily by the far right, is inextricably linked to the battles for environmental protection and the required change in the productive model. These battles presuppose, at the same time, a different model of policy-making that has national and transnational characteristics.

 

This strategy makes the new generation a protagonist of developments, precisely because the latter is the generation of crises, job insecurity and precariousness, which is constantly experiencing social exclusion and deadlocks in its daily life, unable to meet its housing needs, unable to find a job and facing unemployment and insecurity, growing up and learning to live in new technological environments, creating new cultural patterns, challenging the primacy of profit, a generation that has dreams and seeks tranquility and a solid ground to build its life. The Youth, on our part, must become a central force of social change and political conflict towards the old world that has now reached its limits and does not fit us.

 

We need, therefore, a new plan that will define Socialism in the 21st Century, on new foundations from the existing ones, precisely because socialist ideas and the abolition of human exploitation cannot be gospel texts and sterile reproduction of models which have historically failed, but a new reality, a new social contract with clear social priorities that will be in complete conflict with the priorities of capital.