By Stefano Araújo
The entire globe is facing an unprecedented health and economic crisis due to the rampant spread of the coronavirus. Not only are entire national health systems at the limit of their capacity with serious repercussions for the health of their citizens, at the same time, on an economic level, we are experiencing one of the heaviest economic crises in history due to the extraordinary measures taken by governments to eradicate the expansion of the virus. In the face of an emergency of these proportions, Communists are at the forefront: in Switzerland they are supporting the population through militant activity in the civil service, and politically in proposing immediate solutions to face the crisis.
On the health front, they demand greater investments in public health infrastructure, ranging from wage increases for medical personnel, as suggested by the Worker’s Party of Belgium (PTB), to the establishment of national funds for the health system, such as in the case of the Italian Communist Party (PCI) which has suggested an investment of 50 billion euros in five years for this sector: such proposals are widespread among virtually all relevant European communist parties. For its part, however, the Communist Party (Switzerland) emphasizes the need to prevent speculation around pharmaceutical research and therefore to expropriate the future vaccine against COVID-19 which should be distributed free of charge at the state level. Likewise, according to the Party of Labour of Austria (PdA), medical supplies should be free of charge for the whole population. Thinking instead of more structural measures, both the Communist Party of the Peoples of Spain (PCPE), the Pole of Communist Revival in France (PRCF) and the Communist Party of Belgium (PCB) call for the nationalization of pharmaceutical companies and the conversion of industry towards the production of medicines and sanitary material.
On the other hand, at the level of work and sociality, Swiss Communists are demanding 100% coverage of the reduced work load for all workers affected by the lock-out, a ban on firings during the duration of the crisis, and the full loss of earnings allowance for self-employed workers. Similarly, the German Communist Party (DKP) calls for a general increase in all allowances for reduced work. Also particular are the proposals of the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) for a thirteenth bonus for retirees, and an extra income of € 1,000 and the suspension of tax payments for self-employed workers. Universal quarantine was proposed by the Italian communists (organized both in the PCI, in the Popular Front and in the Communist Refoundation Party): this would be aimed at supporting the entire population deprived of revenue during this moment of socio-economic emergency. Still, in order to meet the needs of workers, the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) is calling for blocking of evictions and the payment of mortgages, as well as an absolute ban on the interruption of the supply of gas, electricity, water and telecommunications.
Attending to the needs of the youngest, but also of SMEs, the Communist Party (Switzerland) that insists on the reimbursement of university fees and public transport cards and tickets in addition to the ban on eviction for artisans and small traders. Considering the least protected in our society, the Belgian PCB requests that the state requisition vacant hotels and apartments in which to welcome not only health workers, but also the homeless and the most deprived.
However, the economy will also need to be relaunched and in view of this phase, most of the European communist parties struggle for an extraordinary property tax so that the public debt is not bridged by wage earners, but by the millionaires and billionaires. Others stress the need to introduce the Tobin Tax on financial transactions, to finance the massive investment that states will have to make to save the economy, especially in terms of credits and liquidity for SMEs and independent workers. In addition, the government budget constraint mechanism must be canceled everywhere. And in case of direct support to private companies, the state should prefer the share acquisition as requested by the Swiss communists.
In conclusion, in the face of this crisis, one cannot fail to consider the aggravating role of the European Union and neoliberalism such as the Maastricht criteria, which provide for budgetary balance and massive cuts in public debt. Many European countries have made numerous cuts in public health. Think of Italy, which has cut healthcare services by 37 billion euros in ten years, reducing its number of hospital beds by 70,000 units. Not only that, but in the wake of neoliberalism, a massive process of privatizations has followed, and as the Austrian communists of the PdA rightly point out, the EU defends monopolies, including in the pharmaceutical field, not its citizens. Overcoming the austerity rules imposed by Brussels and neoliberalism is therefore central to the strategy that the European communists intend to promote for public health and for an incisive state at the market level.
Stefano Araújo – Master in political sciences and member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (Switzerland)