In Light of the Global Pandemic, Focus Attention on the People

International Assembly of the Peoples and Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research

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The global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 disease has paralyzed large parts of the world. In this context, on March 21, we launched a Declaration in which we urged all the people of the world to put Life before Capital. We proposed the opening up of a debate on an international political platform with 16 concrete proposals of actions to confront the pandemic.

The Declaration was launched jointly by the International People’s Assembly (IPA) – an international articulation of anti-imperialist movements and organizations from 87 countries – and by Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. We have since invited organizations and individuals to endorse the Declaration.

To date, we have received a total of 479 endorsements from 70 countries on all continents, including 8 international platforms, 233 organizations and 238 persons, mainly intellectuals.

The reaction of people to the Declaration is very positive. It indicates that there is a great popular will to give concrete answers to the crisis produced by this pandemic; our movements, and those not in our movements, wish to produce deep changes in the capitalist, neoliberal, and patriarchal system in which we live; this system is the root of the economic crisis; its destruction of the public systems of social and health protection generated the health crisis. All of these are elements that precede the pandemic and that aggravate the situation of the workers in the face of the contagion and lethality of this new disease.

At the same time, we have received important contributions and questions as part of the dialogue with the 16 points in the Declaration. We have systematized some of them below, because we consider that these aspects are essential for any future discussion.

  1. The Gendered Impact of the CoronaShock. Without a doubt, the question of gender must be central to our assessment of the CoronaShock and of any policy framework of the left that emerges out of it.
    1. In the health field itself, three-quarters of the front-line workers are women, many of them working without union protection, without protective equipment, and without any leadership role in their fields. We put on the table the importance of building power for women workers.
    2. In the lockdown around the world, as a consequence of the overwhelming evidence that care works sits on the shoulders of women, patriarchal gender roles have asserted themselves. We believe fundamentally that the patriarchal understanding of ‘men’s work’ and ‘women’s work’ must be challenged and the structures must be put in place – such as universal childcare and the fight for equity inside households – that undermine these distinctions.
    3. There is already evidence of an increase in domestic violence during the quarantine, where the main victims are women, especially poor and black working women. We urge all peoples of the world to denounce and combat violence by demanding that the State provide legal, social and economic protection to all women victims of violence.
  1. The Question of the Dollar-Wall Street Complex. We had called upon the United Nations to rethink the question of the dollar being essential the global fiat currency. What we want to amplify is that the institutions of finance for trade and development are utterly dominated by the United States and by the European states – whether the banking networks, the money transfer networks, the ratings agencies, the currency used to reconcile international trade. We want to make the case that this biased institutional system needs to be democratised, with the emergence of truly international financial systems for both development and trade.
  1. Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism. Despite decolonization, the states that became newly independent struggle for lack of capital and investment. They had to borrow from the old colonial powers, and often went into debt. When they tried to finance their debt, they were told to ‘structurally adjust’ their governmental policy to favour international capital rather than the social needs of their population. What needs to be on the table are reparations for colonialism – the vast amount of resources stolen from the formerly colonised states – and are new proposals to deal with the toxic debt and for further financing.

Finally, we cannot fail to mention that the pandemic clarified something about the social orders in which we live: on the one side, states with a socialist orientation (China, Cuba, Venezuela) mobilised whatever resources that they had available – regardless of economic losses – to contain the pandemic; the states of the bourgeois order utterly failed to use their considerable resources and failed to prepare a rational plan for these resources (the death rates from Italy to the United States of America have been catastrophic, a political crime against humanity).

The example of the Venezuelan people, the Cuban people, and the Chinese people fill our hearts with hope that another world is possible, where relations between peoples are based on solidarity, integration, cooperation and complementarity, as dreamed of by Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, Hugo Chávez, Berta Cáceres and other internationalists who preceded us.