Coronavirus Crisis: Human Worth is the Only Priority
We keep hearing that life won’t be the same, even after the worst is over. The picture painted of that future usually goes like this: Get prepared for more poverty, more austerity, and life stalked by sickness and death.
Our class cannot accept this vision of our future when so much more is possible. Today, this very moment, we have everything in place to have a decent and healthy life, to have enough of everything we need, and to live with the true happiness every person deserves.
Advances in technology today are truly revolutionary, and this new technology makes it possible to make revolutionary changes in our society for the betterment of all. We have already experienced profound changes in the way the things we need are produced. These advances are beginning to reach into new areas of the economy, from the lowest-paid service sector to the highest-paid professional work.
As these technologies eradicate the need for human labor in more and more areas of the economy, they free us up to live life in ways that we have never seen in human history. We can get rid of the crowded meat packing plants, or the back-breaking toil of the fields, the mindless work in the mega warehouses, the endless standing for hours working the check-out counter. We can free up our doctors and nurses to really care for people, for teachers to really educate their students, and for everyone to live healthy and productive lives.
What’s holding us back is the capitalist economy, which is owned and run by a capitalist class whose only purpose is to maximize their power and wealth. For them, automation is simply a way of making more money by getting rid of workers and ramping up production. Robots don’t need breaks or vacations and, as one executive remarked, “Robots don’t get the virus.” For the capitalist class, life after the pandemic means more automation, more money, and greater luxury and privilege.
But they can’t keep this up. Part of the revolutionary aspect of this new technology is that it attacks the capitalist system of buying and selling at its very heart. If workers can’t work, they can’t buy. This means we can’t eat or even survive, but it also means that there is no one to buy that mountain of products these super-productive robots are making. The capitalist system is buckling from within, making a transformation in society not simply a moral imperative but also a practical necessity. This new technology demands a new economy based on distribution without money.
So, we have to start asking ourselves: What’s wrong with making sure that people have what they need? What’s wrong with us doing the work of society that is meaningful, enjoyable, safe, and for the benefit of all? What’s wrong with a life of leisure and enjoyment where we can fully pursue our cultural and educational interests, where we can have a chance at happiness and contentment?
There are millions of people out there who are questioning the false choices being put forward by the rulers. This very questioning is shaping a vision that prioritizes human worth.
There’s the fired New Jersey Amazon worker Christian Smalls who just didn’t want to stand by while his workmates suffered. There’s that lawyer Daniel Uhlfelder who spent hours at a Florida beach dressed like the “Grim Reaper,” calling out the false choices put before us. “We are the wealthiest country on the planet. Why can’t we take care of people … instead of being put in these situations?” There’s Jillian, the Brooklyn nurse whose protest sign showed the connections between all workers. “Nurses fighting for our lives support worker safety at Amazon, MTA, Delta, Whole Foods, USPS, Instacart, Trader Joe’s, FedEx, FreshDirect, NYC Schools.” The other side said, “All essential workers are care workers.” There’s the Santa Barbara newspaper editor Nick Masuda who resigned over the fascistic editorial his publisher wrote. “We all have bosses, and sometimes you simply don’t see the world in the same way. Sometimes you are subjected to things that no person should be subjected to,” Masuda wrote. “Sometimes, you simply can’t co-exist, especially when views go against all that you stand for as a human.”
Today, the only real choice is this: To discard the false choices and corrupt vision of the capitalist class, organize and unify ourselves on the basis of our common interests, and use the transformation of society already underway to build a world of peace, well-being, and happiness for all.
The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011