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Issue #1911      April 20, 2020

WORKERS WON’T PAY TO RESCUE CAPITALISM: COVID DEBT BELONGS TO THE MONOPOLIES!

The COVID-19 pandemic has overtaken our world, bringing with it catastrophic health and economic implications for the people of all nations. Sickness and loss of life is a human tragedy of monumental proportions. The failure of the world’s developed capitalist economies to urgently respond to the spread of the virus and protect their people has clearly exposed the fatal contradiction at the heart of the capitalist model. The rights of the few to private profit are in stark conflict with the rights of the many to safety and health. Communists worldwide, including in Australia, are standing together with workers and all exploited people to demand governments prioritise people’s needs before all else.

The COVID-19 health crisis has exposed the vulnerability and the contradictions in the capitalist economies that have for decades pushed the privatisation of all sectors of the economy and shrunk government responsibility for services to people.

The economic response in capitalist countries to the pandemic has clearly shown the interdependence of the private sector on the taxpayer via government subsidies and incentives and handouts. In the present crisis, the private sector has again put its hand up for even greater handouts as the threat of collapse rears its head. The banks, the airlines (Virgin and Qantas), the private health insurers, private childcare, and others are all being propped up by public funds to keep them in private hands. Instead, we should be nationalising them, which would reduce government debt and guarantee essential services in the future.

The CPA stands with the Australian working class who are suffering now, and who will be disadvantaged in the future by the pro-business COVID debt.

Conflicted by their true class allegiance, capitalist governments in Australia, the UK, and the US common response is characterised by confusion and delay which is evident in the mixed messages, indecision, denial and stuff-ups. The Australian government at the federal and state levels has displayed reluctance (to the point of criminal negligence), to shut down business and schools; a failure to prepare for mass testing and to stock adequate PPE supplies; a delay in stopping travel into Australia – all of which resulted in a spike of cases and community panic. In Tasmania, they are asking where the testing kits and the PPE are after a serious threat of community spread emerged recently.

The early focus has not been on stopping the pandemic and reducing the loss of life. It has been on putting in place fiscal policies to save the private sector, to save a crippled and dysfunctional system incapable of looking after people. The ideologically driven and unheard-of business rescue packages have placed the economic burden of saving the capitalist economy on the working people of Australia, now and into the future. The $130 billion “JobKeeper” package will be paid for by workers through a long-term debt burden that is avoidable but not preferred by capitalism. Tax avoided by monopoly and transnational companies for years and decades could be called in now to subsidise wages. Instead, we are hearing that plans are afoot to increase the GST to twenty per cent.

The crippling debt will not be paid back by the monopolies or by big businesses. No guarantees are being demanded for businesses to keep people employed on full wages when the crisis is over. No levy is being flagged on super-profits of the monopolies. Yet, almost 2 million casual workers will be forced onto the JobSeeker Allowance (Newstart), and Australian workers are preparing for further insecure and part-time employment, extended wage freezes, increase regressive taxes (like the GST), and higher unemployment. Workers are encouraged to pay for the crisis by drawing down on their super, a long-term impoverishment strategy for the already vulnerable. This is how “Team Australia” will be positioning the working class in the “recovery stage.”

Meanwhile, monopolies and finance capital are repositioning themselves to take advantage of the new opportunities to profiteer by absorbing smaller competitors, price gouging, and opportunistic speculation in depressed markets including the share market and parasitic finance sector.

NO ACCORD MARK II

The CPA, for many years, has exposed the lie of social contracts and “Accord” politics which deny classes exist in capitalist societies. They claim opportunistically during the COVID-19 pandemic that there are no classes and no conflicting interests. There will be no support for another social contract, this time called “Team Australia.” There must be no support for placing the burden of COVID-19 rescue package debt onto the working people. The CPA will not accept attempts to repay the COVID debt through the impoverishment of workers and other sectors and strata, including the rural poor. Recovery policies that further lower living standards and wages and/or impose long-term austerity policies on the Australian working class and other exploited strata are unacceptable.

No worker should be placed in the position of choosing between their safety and their livelihood, including health workers and essential industry workers.

The CPA has called on the Australian government to nationalise the health system now to ensure we have the capacity and resources needed to fight the war on COVID-19. This means no billion-dollar deals with private hospitals to lease their resources and staff to the public health system. Privatisation of our health system has proceeded at the expense of our public hospitals and Medicare and doesn’t need to be paid $1.3 billion to lease back hospitals and resources. We have already paid for those resources.

In Australia, where until now the death toll remains low, there has been a cynical delay by governments in implementing the necessary public health measures and providing economic back up for workers. Essential workers and teachers have been on the front-line, underprepared and more often unprotected. Everything has been left on the shoulders of individuals when a government response was necessary. Their casual colleagues treated as second class workers, dispensable both in and out of crisis.

Gig economy and casual workers have had little choice but to keep working despite clear risks. This indecisiveness arose from a primary commitment to keep businesses open in the face of the rapidly emerging health threat. The “Team Australia” rhetoric rolled out alongside hundreds of billions of dollars of pro-business fiscal rescue packages hoped to blunt any opposition to what amounts to saving the system on the backs of the workers.

NO MORE HANDOUTS TO THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY!

It is time to shut down the free ride being given to private health insurance. The CPA is asking: Why are the people still paying private health insurance premiums during the COVID-19 crisis when they are not able to access elective surgery and ancillary health services covered by this insurance?

At the same time, the Private Health Insurance industry (PHII) is getting a second “get out of jail free card.” The PHII receives a thirty per cent government subsidy on people’s health insurance premiums. The PHII “rebate” redirects taxpayer’s dollars into subsidising the unprofitable private health insurance funds which in turn prop up the private health system. This government handout to the private health insurance industry is a wasteful use of public funds for the benefit of the owners of private hospitals and profit-hungry medical professionals.

Now is the opportune time to direct these funds back to the underfunded public health system and re-build a strong public health sector. In the next three to six months, the Australian government plans to keep paying the subsidy to the private funds at an estimated cost of $5 billion just over that period. The CPA is the only voice calling on the Australian government to stop the unjust subsidies to the PHI now.

The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the predatory and aggressive nature of capitalism more clearly.

The CPA has pointed out that despite this national crisis, $39.5 billion per annum is going into a bloated and wasteful defence budget. It continues to agitate and demand this money be used for the COVID-19 emergency. It is money needed to build up the Australian people’s defences against COVID-19. It is money better spent on strengthening and building up the public health system and our economic defences through publically owned essential industries including, energy, banking, utilities, and transport sectors. It will also help to ensure the working people are not left with capitalism’s debt.

Our governments must meet the needs of the people. It can be no longer acceptable for governments to siphon off the wealth created by the working people and fill the pockets of a privileged and parasitic few by impoverishing the producers of that wealth. It is no longer acceptable to build submarines instead of ventilators or to waste billions of taxpayer’s dollars to fight imaginary enemies when we can’t even supply our front line health workers with protective masks and PPE.

TODAY’S AGENDA IS SOCIALISM

COVID-19 has made it abundantly clear to a growing section of the Australian people that socialism is not only a realistic alternative but the necessary alternative to capitalism. In the present crisis, they can see more clearly how capitalism prioritises the private sector and big business’ interests over the working people and the majority of Australians.

They understand that talk of “Team Australia” is talk of maintaining a status quo, where the workers are left on their own. At the same time, the monopolies and governments are excused from responsibility for the economic and health needs of society. The working class must continue to recruit support for a socialist change in society, from all the exploited and oppressed sections of society, including the rural poor, the unemployed, women and young people, the dispossessed Indigenous people, and anti-imperialist peace and environmental groups. We must compete for and win political and economic power to defend and extend the interests of the vast majority of the Australian people. There is no other choice.

Next article – HEALTH, WORKERS’ RIGHTS, AND SOCIALISM

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