Global Ecosocialist Network: COVID-19 shows need for system change

Image by Gordon Johnson/Pixabay

The recently-formed Global Ecosocialist Network held its first formal meeting on May 3. Ecosocialists from Africa, Europe, North America and Australia exchanged experiences, planned activities and unanimously adopted the following statement on the COVID-19 crisis.

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GEN statement on the COVID-19 crisis

GEN sees the appalling COVID-19 pandemic as neither an act of god nor a random once in a lifetime natural disaster, but as a symptom, like climate change and the plastification of our oceans, of the total environmental crisis which has developed in recent decades as a result of the metabolic rift opened up by capitalism between human society and nature.

As radical epidemiologists like Rob Wallace have shown, the COVID-19 pandemic is only the latest and most deadly in a series of dangerous viruses, such as HIV, H5N1 (‘Avian flu’), H1N1 (‘swine flu’)  SARS and MERS, which are a growing threat to us all, and that its roots lie in four features of modern capitalist agriculture:

1. the ever increasing dominance of food production by giant capitalist corporations practicing monoculture;

2. the ever growing encroachment on the wild by those same corporations increasing the likelihood of zoonotic infection [the leap of viruses across species to humans];

3. the prevalence of cruel and dangerous factory farming methods which concentrate immense numbers of animals in the smallest possible spaces;

4. increasingly globalised circuits of food distribution and trade which facilitate the rapid international spread of infection.

As a result, humanity faces three conjoined and interacting crises: an ongoing climate crisis; an acute health crisis and an impending global economic crisis, all of unprecedented dimensions.

The COVID-19 crisis has also highlighted the willingness of all capitalist governments and especially the far right neoliberal governments, such as those of [Donald] Trump, [Jair] Bolsonaro and [Boris] Johnson, to sacrifice human life on the altar of profit, especially old and sick people who do not any more generate plus-value. GEN also notes that this willingness bodes very ill for their ability to respond in any way adequately to the escalating climate crisis.

In the immediate situation, GEN:

• Expresses its solidarity with all health-care and front line workers across the globe, the vast majority being women, who are risking their lives for us all. We insist that they should be provided, by whatever means necessary, with adequate masks and PPEs.

• Calls for public healthcare to be put before for-profits everywhere.

• Supports the principle of publicly-owned health services, free at the point of provision in all countries. Private beds, wards and hospitals should be requisitioned to deal with the crisis.

• Calls for workers laid off and thrown into unemployment to be paid a living wage by the state.

In the short term, the additional indebtedness of the imperialist countries must be borne by transnational corporations and large fortunes, just as the public debt of dependent countries must be canceled and these countries supported.

After this immediate crisis, there must be no going back to capitalist business-as-usual, because capitalist business-as-usual is threatening the very survival of humanity. The need for system change and socialist solutions could not be clearer.

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Climate and Capitalism editor Ian Angus was elected to the GEN Steering Committee, along with Tafadzwa Choto, Rehad Desai, Michael Lowy, Trevor Ngwane, John Molyneux, and Memet Uludag.

Membership is open to organisations and individuals who agree with GEN’s key principles:

  1. There is a generalised environmental crisis of which climate change is the lead element. This crisis is extremely urgent and threatens the future of humanity and countless other species.
  2. The cause of this crisis is capitalism – an economic and social system based on competitive exploitation and production for profit.
  3. Solving this crisis and surviving it involves an international break with capitalism and its replacement by socialism – an economic and social system based on collective ownership of the main forces of production and democratic planning.
  4. To achieve this we need a global mobilisation of people power.
  5. Such mobilisation requires a commitment to a just transition ie not one based on attacking the jobs and living standards of the mass of working people.
  6. The united mobilisation we need also requires opposition to all racist, sexist, national, homophobic and transphobic oppression.

To learn more, or to join, visit the Global Ecosocialist Network website.

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