New Ideas Light Our Way Out of Crisis
We call this series “ray of light” because it’s hard to imagine a darker struggle than today’s fight for the most basic needs—food, shelter, clothing (that includes PPE), and true, universal health care. We could have all of these things, but they are being systematically denied by people who maintain their power and control at the cost of hundreds of thousands dying from this disease, offering only darkness to the millions more now facing homelessness and starvation. If we understand such mass murder as the result of an outdated system, then a new idea begins to light our way. This new system puts lives before profits.
The stakes are astronomical. A truly global pandemic has reached every country in the world in a few short months. Yet, the one hardest hit, the United States, is already beginning to open back up. It means exposing more workers to the virus but also evicting people from the homes we recently insisted everyone needed to avoid spreading the disease. 38 million newly unemployed are now facing Congressional efforts to phase out emergency unemployment insurance. The United Nations’ World Food Program estimates that 280 million people will face starvation, twice as many as last year. In the United States, 46 million depended on food banks before the pandemic. Demand has jumped by 60% in some areas, and distribution for food and health care has crumbled, though supplemented by heroic but inadequate mutual aid funds.
Meanwhile, the people we call the heroes because they risk their lives every day—the health care workers, the factory workers, the truck drivers, the essential food service and retail industry workers who watch out for our basic needs—all face the elimination of their jobs in the wake of this crisis. According to Business Insider, 27 percent of jobs in education, 36% of health care employment, 44% of work in utilities, 53 percent of jobs in retail, 57 percent of jobs in transportation, 60 percent of jobs in agriculture and 73 percent of food service jobs were already being considered for automation in 2019. If anything, the pandemic reinforced corporate decisions to eliminate such work in favor of a more fully automated system. Capitalism, a system based upon the exchange of labor for goods, has been in a developing crisis for 40 years since automation began to replace human labor on a massive scale. Today, we see those in charge of that system, choosing to let us die rather than even meet our most basic needs.
The greatest obstacle to our liberation is our inability to build the class unity that could create a new system. Our class has been conditioned to see our value in terms of the profits we earn for our rulers. We hear our loved ones time and time again doubt their own value because of their lack of income or economic stability. But what makes people valuable has nothing to do with the money they make; it’s the way they light up our lives and make them worth living. We see this light grow brighter whenever our struggles bring people together across gender and generations, racial, ethnic and spiritual differences, both disabled and the able-bodied- demanding rent moratoriums, universal health care, access to education, and an end to inhumane overcrowding in detention centers, nursing homes, prisons or military barracks.
If America has promised us nothing else, it has promised us the idea of opportunity. Our ruling class leaders know this, and they steer us into blaming other workers for blocking access to our basic needs. Leaders of the two main political parties do this by dividing us along ideological lines while serving the same masters. But economic polarization is forcing working class people in those parties to seek a brighter path together. They are following glimmers of light through the darkness of this pandemic, fighting for their basic needs and denouncing a system that endangers them while ensuring that billionaires remain comfortable and even wealthier (like Democratic donor Jeff Bezos and the Republican Walton family).
The pandemic has left some of us feeling helpless and confused. Still, in this process, we have also found ourselves thinking about what really matters. Our basic needs certainly start with the materials things it takes to survive, but it’s also conceivable the world has never so vividly felt the necessity of human connection. Though quarantine is necessary to combat such a pandemic, our system has left far too many of us dangerously divided and alone. Our digital devices have become lifelines for human connection and essential services, though some go without, trapped in dangerous isolation. Others face their last days cut off from friends and family.
If the growing majority of us who are being abandoned by the ruling class could see the potential of our class unity, we could create a society that extended our very definition of basic needs. It is perfectly within our technological capability to ensure everyone everywhere has the food, health care, clean water, and sanitation supplies necessary to combat the virus. Automation in the hands of our class could also provide what each of us needs to shelter in place with digital connectivity and support without the anxiety that it will all be taken away.
On top of all that, our human capabilities could be unleashed for the sake of the improvement of the new system. We could work together to unleash the physical and mental health support and the arts, sport, and culture that truly make life worth living. Our technological capabilities allow endless possibilities to live the life we’ve each only been able to dream about. All we really need to do is free our minds, and the rest will follow.
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