Covid-19 pandemic shines powerful light on capitalism and imperialism
Written by: Alice M. on 31 May 2020
The Covid-19 pandemic exposed the irreconcilable class antagonisms of the capitalist system. It proved again that monopoly capitalism’s inherent exploitation and drive for profit works against the economic security, the health and wellbeing of the people.
Frontline and essential services workers step out of the shadows
Covid-19 has shone a powerful light on the work of frontline and essential services workers. Most front line and essential services workers are among the lowest paid in the country, the majority are women whose low paid labour enables capitalism to maximise profit making. Health care workers, cleaners, child care, disabilities and aged care workers, retail, hospitality and services workers, keep the capitalist economy functioning.
Most workers stood down by the Covid-19 lock out are in the lowest paid hospitality, retail and community services industries, the majority are women in casual and precarious jobs for most of their lives. Part-time casual workers for less than 12 months with one employer don’t qualify for the JobKeeper package and face a life of permanent unemployment, economic insecurity and poverty.
George Megalogenis, an economics commentator, has pointed out that unlike the 1990s recession in which men lost 85 per cent of the jobs, and the 1980s recession in which they lost 76 per cent of the jobs, more than half of the workforce facing loss of their jobs so far from Covid-19 are women.
On average, women’s superannuation savings are less than half those of men. Covid-19 and the recession will increase this inequality at the same time as older women are already the fastest growing group of homeless in the country.
The following graph shows that in most industries, more women are in insecure casual work. It shows the number of casual workers employed for less than 12 months with their current employer, by gender.
At home women do the bulk of domestic work, childcare, organising and co-ordinating family responsibilities and activities. The lockdown has burdened women with increased household, family and childcare work. The exploitation of women at home and at work is covered and hidden under the capitalist promoted myths of the caring and self-sacrificing nature of women.
Studies in past two months of lock down have shown that for families with children the physical isolation and school closures have added an extra six hours every day on caring for or supervising children at home. Around four of these six hours of extra child care work is done by women, and two by their male partners.
The lockdown has increased housework for women by more than an hour every day, but less than half an hour for men.
This unpaid housework and family work is a vital bedrock in the capitalist economy, essential for the reproduction and sustaining the present and future generations of workers for capitalist exploitation. The unpaid labour of women’s domestic work and caring for children, the sick, the elderly and disabled maximises profits for the capitalist class.
The coronavirus crisis has exposed that the exploitation of women, both paid and unpaid, is fundamental to the operations of capitalism and class exploitation.
State capitalism to the rescue
The scale of the economic recession and Covid-19 that hit the global capitalist economy is taking a huge toll on the health, the livelihoods and economic security of ordinary people. Even before the Covid-19 outbreak the global capitalist economy was already in recession and hurtling towards a major economic crisis. The bourgeois state is compelled to step in directly and take control of the entire country’s economy and political functions to prop up monopolies and save capitalism. This is simply state monopoly capitalism temporarily taking over some functions of monopolies. It has nothing to do with socialism where the means of production are taken over by the working class and run for working people.
Some operations of private hospitals were temporarily taken over by the bourgeois state as the only efficient way to manage the national health crisis.
Child care is suddenly declared an essential public service and heavily subsidised by the government to make it free for frontline and essential services workers, showing the indispensable role of child care in the economy. And yet Early Childhood Educators are some of the lowest paid workers because the majority are women doing “women’s work”. At the same time, before the corona virus pandemic crisis, childcare costs in Australia were among the most expensive in the world – more expensive than for private schooling.
The government instructs banks to defer mortgage repayments and placed a moratorium on residential and commercial rents.
The banks were the first beneficiaries of $105 billion government handouts from people’s taxes.
Billions of working people’s taxes are handed over to Qantas to save it from collapsing.
The billions of dollars for the JobKeeper Allowance is nothing more than the capitalist state trying to bail out big business and the capitalist system from deepening recession and looming depression.
It is simply corporate welfare – welfare for the big business. Using people’s taxes to rescue big business.
Suddenly, the government found money to increase the unliveable Newstart Allowance, rebranded JobSeeker Allowance for the unemployed.
Some describe the government intervention, the bailing out of companies and an increase in welfare subsidies for the people, as socialism. It is simply state capitalism sending in the fire engines trying to rescue the monopoly capitalist class and the capitalist system during the economic crisis. Capitalism can’t be reformed and given a more humane face because the fundamental exploitation remains.
The JobKeeper and JobSeeker allowances aim to stimulate spending, dampen social unrest and get the capitalist economy through a deep recession and depression. These welfare payments to the people are dwarfed by the massive government welfare handouts to corporations and big business.
Already Covid-19 and the economic recession are sending more small businesses into extinction, increasing monopolisation.
Control and suppression of the working class
Under the pretext of the national health emergency crisis the state is making preparations to intensify the exploitation of workers through “increased productivity” and “more flexibility” for big business to wipe out hard won rights and conditions and for workers to make sacrifices to reboot the capitalist economy and increase the rate of profit.
The police and intelligence agencies have been given unprecedented powers and resources to impose draconian restrictions on people’s democratic rights, including public gatherings and protests, intended to suppress people’s resistance to austerity.
Independence and self-reliance
Covid-19 Pandemic has exposed the depth of imperialist control over Australia’s economy. It revealed the manufacturing industry gutted so deeply that Australia no longer manufactures even the most basic medical equipment, medical masks, ventilators and personal protective equipment. Most of Australia’s medications are imported from overseas whilst many of our medical scientists are starved of public funding for research and development. Many local manufacturing industries have been taken over by multinational corporations, killed off or moved out of Australia to low wage countries where exploitation of workers is even more intense and profit margins higher.
Covid–19 has accelerated and deepened the economic recession.
Long struggles and economic hardships lay ahead for working people. Capitalism has reached well beyond its use-by date and is now threatening all life on earth. But capitalism will not collapse simply from its own created and unavoidable economic crises. The people, led by an organised revolutionary working class, are decisive in consciously ending capitalism and sending it to the dustbin of history, for ever.
The revolutionary fight for an independent socialist Australia takes many turns and twists, and is unstoppable.
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