Socialist lessons learned: The political shifts brought by the coronavirus
Let's Restart: The coronavirus experience has brought several lessons about the better society we need. In this photo, United Auto Workers members leave the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Warren Truck Plant after the first work shift, Monday, May 18, 2020, in Warren, Mich. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV along with rivals Ford and General Motors Co., restarted the assembly lines on Monday after several weeks of inactivity due to the coronavirus pandemic. | Paul Sancya / AP

Rev. Dr. William Barber of the New Poor People’s Campaign has been preaching: “This virus is teaching us that from now on, living wages, guaranteed health care for all, unemployment and labor rights are not far-left issues but issues of right vs. wrong and life vs. death.” Expanding on those truths, here are some more lessons we have learned these past couple of months.

The pandemic caused by the new coronavirus highlights many of the reasons why socialism is needed now in the U.S.A. Most immediate, in a socialist society, there would be national health care with no costs to you for your treatment of any health problem caused by a virus or for any other health problem regardless of how mild or severe or how long you have it. In a situation like the current pandemic, the entire scientific and educational community in the country would be mobilized to work on finding treatments, cures, and vaccines.

Is socialist society, helpful drugs like Remdesivir for COVID-19 would be available to anyone for free. Pharmaceutical companies like Gilead Sciences that make this drug could not prevent the use of Remdesivir by people who are ill and poor. Currently, the use of possible drugs for COVID-19 will not be available to everyone because of overpricing and company patents which block the production by any other company. This could mean death to some whom this drug may have saved.

Much the same has happened with drugs in the treatment of AIDS. In socialism, patents could not be used to block the making of drugs by various companies that could sell it cheaper. A socialist government could even buy it and distribute it for free or manufacture it and provide it for free to anyone who could not afford it.

In a socialist society, equipment like respirators as well as other medical equipment would already exist with sufficient supply because hospitals would have the necessary medical equipment. They would not be constrained by budgetary choices because health care would be fully funded and treated as a human right. The government would also have supplies warehoused to meet emergency demands. In the case of unforeseen shortages caused by national emergencies, industries would be directed to produce whatever is needed to end those shortages, and the government would pay for all expenses those industries would incur in making the change to a different production.

Workers would not lose their jobs or their paychecks even when asked to stay home from work because of national or local medical or non-medical emergencies such as earthquakes, floods, or tornados. One example is the people working in the meat processing plants where the coronavirus has become a hot spot because the owners of those plants did not want to cut their profits by spending money on safety for the workers. These workers then take the infection back to their communities.

In a socialist system, small businesses would receive funds to meet their payroll and their business expenses if they were required to remain closed during any national or local emergency that required workers to stay home from work for their safety. In socialist society, utilities like gas, water, electricity, and rubbish removal would be publicly owned. They would not be disconnected or stopped in such emergencies because these services are considered essential in our country to live decently. Under socialism, you would not have to worry about losing your apartment or home due to missing rent or mortgage payments because housing, a decent place to live, would be guaranteed to all families and individuals.

Direct monetary transfer

This is the most well-known form of money transfer and is used for both Social Security and unemployment payments. Keynesian economics refers to the “multiplier effect” where every dollar in payment stimulates a chain reaction that results in spending more than merely the original dollar.

The coronavirus pandemic clearly exposes the unequal distribution of wealth, as evidenced by our nation’s policies. This direct monetary transfer of $1,200 which has recently occurred will result in a deeper discussion on the redistribution of income and wealth in our country. We have learned that Social Security and Medicare are much-needed safety nets for many and should be expanded to everyone for their lifetimes. We have learned that there needs to be a transfer of wealth from the corporate sector to the working class for social needs. A government should, after all, serve the people. If the money is there for emergencies, and the Republicans said it wasn’t before the pandemic, then let’s make it be there all the time, not just in emergencies.

Emphasize more spending on healthcare

One of the systemic failures within our system of government is the lack of health care for everybody that needs it. The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the poor and inadequate health system in our nation. It has exposed the discriminatory features attached to our nation’s health care system. These are disturbing inherent systemic failures that need to be fixed and that are long overdue. We have learned that universal health care has become a top priority. Health care for all is basic in socialism.

Temporary debt freeze

With the loss of jobs and income, the issue of debt relief has been injected into our daily financial debate. Debt relief is extended to those in need of assistance because of financial hardship due to the coronavirus pandemic. There are some temporary freezes on debt collection across the country: everything from parking fees, to creating regulations on predatory spending, banning garnishment of wages, and temporarily suspending mortgage payments. Deeper institutional challenges need to be addressed. A dialogue around canceling student debt and even global debt forgiveness are issues we have learned these past few weeks are commonsense policies. In socialist society, this kind of help to the population could be automatic and part of your constitutional rights.

Rent and mortgage caps

Moratoriums on rents, where they exist, are intended to help tenants affected by the coronavirus. It is a temporary fix. Mortgage caps are also a temporary fix. All these temporary monetary fixes are meant to prevent the entire housing market from collapsing. We have learned that more control needs to be placed on banks, developers, and big landlords who are only interested in a profit motive. We have seen in the recent presidential debates that the lack of affordable housing and adjusting any profit equation in the housing market is already being discussed by individuals such as Bernie Sanders. Under socialism, these kinds of help to the population could be automatic and could not be blocked by one party or another or by an individual with executive power.

Housing the homeless

This problem has created a serious financial toll on city budgets. Human despair due to the coronavirus is more widespread than reported. Homelessness was a major concern before the pandemic hit our cities. Pressure has been placed on cities to focus on spending, develop policies and planning to design creative new ways to deal with the homeless. We have learned that cities and all communities must work together to solve this problem. We have learned that it is our responsibility and the government’s to address issues such as housing, food shortages, and other human needs. Attention to these issues would be automatic and guaranteed in a socialist society.

Disaster relief funds for undocumented migrants

We have learned that any form of relief funding discrimination is harmful to our safety and health. We are all in this together. Disaster relief for undocumented people is a much-needed action that does not negatively impact our economic and social order; in fact, it improves it. We have learned that states such as California have provided disaster relief to undocumented migrants. This type of policy has saved jobs in various sectors of the job market and has saved workers in other industries. A socialist system would guarantee protections for all and would not depend on your immigration status.

Work stoppages by union and non-union

We have learned that unions are necessary in order to protect their members and protect the workplace from unsafe and harmful decisions based on making a profit. We have learned that unions are necessary and that unions are on the road to reinvigorating the labor movement. Under socialism, unions would continue to be necessary to make sure that the policies the government develops are helpful to all the nations and are not exploitive of working people.

Universal basic income

As a way to keep people employed during the pandemic, a guaranteed income is being considered in the halls of Congress. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, has said that guaranteed income could be worthy of attention now, as was recently done with the stimulus checks. It was called for before the pandemic by one of the presidential candidates, Andrew Yang. But such income will be necessary on a regular monthly basis. We have learned that such discussion and action would have been unheard of just several months ago. If there was socialism, this too could be a right guaranteed by the constitution.

The current anti-crisis policies and programming by the government are a short-term fix. In many cases, problems exist in the implementation of these short term fixes. Many are designed without any real analysis of cause and effect. These programs are installed simply because there are those who believe that the market will self-correct. Nothing could be further from the truth. These fixes should be permanent parts of our financial planning and would be permanent in a socialist society.

It shouldn’t be understated that in the coming months, we will learn many more lessons, such as the hardships caused by unemployment and underemployment. Let us look to new lessons to help our nation move in the direction that will put the wellbeing of all people and the wellbeing of our planet first in a better system—the system of socialism.

This article originally appeared in L.A. Progressive.

As with all op-eds published in People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its authors.


CONTRIBUTOR

David Trujillo
David Trujillo

David Trujillo is a member of the National Writers Union, a playwright, writer, and community activist. David Trujillo es miembro de la Unión Nacional de Escritores, dramaturgo, escritor y activista comunitario.

Ismael Parra
Ismael Parra

Ismael Parra is the Southern California Chair of the National Writers Union, a musician, and writer. Ismael Parra es el presidente de la Unión Nacional de Escritores del Sur de California, músico y escritor.

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