Corona and state
The winner is the one who defeats the pandemic
by Angela Klein
[This article published on March 1, 2021 is translated from the German on the Internet, SoZ – Sozialistische Zeitung » Corona und Staat (sozonline.de).]
NoCovid has reached policy makers. The position paper, drafted by 13 scientists, "aims to prevent new infections, deaths and further nationwide lockdowns." It calls for a rapid reduction in the number of infections to zero and makes suggestions on how to achieve this.
The "zero" has since been corrected by the incidence of 10:100000 per week. Is this arbitrary? No. Is there a criterion for this? Yes, it is the ability of health departments to track all contacts and thus stop an outbreak. The threshold above which this is possible here refers to the upper limit of new infections: Contact restriction enough to control the spread of the virus, depending on the quality of the health care system.
Is this an "impracticable maximum demand," as Alex Demirovic writes in ak 1/21? Henriette Reker, the mayor of Cologne, demanded on Feb. 16 in the Kölner Stadtanzeiger for the whole of Germany a change of strategy in the Corona policy with the goal of an incidence of 10:100000 - the NRW prime minister Laschet (CDU) thinks that already the 35:100000 decided by the federal-state conference is too much.
NoCovid is the starting point for the ZeroCovid appeal, which was presented in the last SoZ (2/2021) and whose cause is supported by the enclosed newspaper of the same name. This call has reaped much support, but also much criticism. In general, it concerns two aspects:the objective is "rather improbable" - "an end of the pandemic is demanded", Demirovic shakes his head in the mentioned article - "as if the state could decree the eradication of the virus";
1.) the goal can only be achieved by police measures. This works into the hands of the bourgeois state.
Is it only possible with police force? In the February issue of SoZ, I listed a number of countries that have brought the pandemic under control. What stood out was: 1. it was consistent infrastructure measures such as testing and isolation that brought success;
2.) it was not necessary to beat the sense of contact restrictions into the population. In Germany, too, their acceptance is high despite all the displeasure about inconsistencies in the government's Corona policy. In Japan, no lockdown had to be imposed because the population complied with the distance rules of its own accord. In Germany, municipalities have repeatedly been able to achieve success at times, while states and the federal government have hardly been able to do so.
Take Bremen: After having some of the highest incidences in October 2020, the city turned things around. Health departments were staffed up to track 75 percent of contacts, not just 24 percent. The city didn't send police into poorer neighborhoods, but street workers to educate the population.
Take Tübingen: Here, the focus was on protecting the over-65s. They were given FFP2 masks free of charge, told to take cabs instead of public transport - at bus fare; every weekday, all citizens can be tested free of charge on the market square; regular tests are carried out in old people's homes and mobile care services - hence no outbreaks. All just offers - well accepted by the population, out of insight. - Police state?
Signatories of NoCovid like Viola Priesemann demand for their zero strategy AHA+LA (ventilate and app), GGG (avoid groups, crowds and lively conversations), home office and close-meshed testing - also at the workplace, also in industry. This is how you keep the virus down. Locally, zero was even reached here and there in the summer of 2020.
Admittedly, the scientists add a very important supplement to these demands: The state must support the people with all means that they can also live the required insight - thus:
- a clear, graduated alarm system (traffic light) also for smaller areas;
- a clear regulation, which measures are taken on which level in each case;
- test, test, test to identify each hotspot immediately.
Cuba has developed a disaster plan for recurring hurricanes that details what needs to happen and under what conditions. This plan was also activated for Corona - and it worked. German governments have completely failed in this regard.
Even a bourgeois state is basically capable of getting a pandemic under control - without authoritarian measures. In fact, in this pandemic, dictatorial governments, with the exception of some East Asian ones, tended to downplay the pandemic and watch the epidemic unfold. China, South Korea, Taiwan, even France with its state of emergency were authoritarian regimes even before Corona. No state has become authoritarian by fighting the pandemic.
The purpose of a state
Demirovic criticizes leftists for turning to the state for help in fighting the pandemic. He counters this with solidarity while asserting, "It won't exist under capitalist conditions." Ah, yes?
Doesn't the left turn to the state every day? Yes, but not with bans on contact, is then the answer. Demirovic has fundamentally misunderstood something there: The vast majority of the population wants the state to end the pandemic. They are suing for the core of a state's right to exist in the first place: its protective function. A bourgeois state must also fulfill this protective function, otherwise its legitimacy is shot. The neoliberal state does this badly, because it has been working for decades to dismantle its protective functions. Now is a good opportunity to make the population aware of how devastating this is - and leftists are not supposed to do this?
In a pandemic, most people care about stopping the disease. That's how they measure the government. To do that, they put up with a lot - including some things they shouldn't. Whether a government's legitimacy can be shaken in this event, however, depends on how effectively it fights the epidemic.
Should we be surprised that the left is unable to act and lacks credibility in this confrontation when a large part of it declares that ending the pandemic is simply "unrealistic"?
Where is the leverage?
A look at the history book is instructive here:
Italian potentates reacted differently to the plague in the 14th century. The Visconti in Milan were despots who managed by strict isolation - plague sufferers were walled in! - that there were no deaths. The Roman nobility was incapable of this, with the result that there was an uprising, whose leader Cola di Rienzo reinstated the Republic and brought the plague under control - thus a left turn! In Venice, the Doges were also incompetent because they did not want to jeopardize their long-distance trade. Here, too, an uprising of the commercial classes against the authorities followed, albeit with a time lag.
The inevitability assumed by many leftists, namely that the state can only deal with the pandemic in an authoritarian manner, does not exist. Rather, leftists can suck honey from its inability to confront it.
Last but not least: There is no solidarity? If so, that is a failure of the left. Their answers to this come tentatively and sporadically. NoCovid's position paper calls for the state to actively support the people's insight by providing assistance - this is dramatically lacking. But this paper, too, omits the crucial question: who will monitor compliance, even in businesses and institutions, or in apartment blocks? The state and federal government obviously do not do this, and the private sector refuses to interfere in business processes.
Unfortunately, this aspect is also missing from the ZeroCovid call - and that makes it vulnerable. "Solidarity Shutdown" is incomprehensible. The existing labor and health protection rights, on the other hand, give us a lever to fight for our right to physical integrity. Wolfgang Alles describes how this can be done in the enclosed newspaper ZeroCovid.
#Zero CoVid - For a European Shutdown in Solidarity - a Call
[This call is translated from the German on the Internet, SoZ – Sozialistische Zeitung » #Zero CoVid – Für einen solidarischen europäischen Shutdown – ein Aufruf (sozonline.de).]
On January 14, a #ZeroCovid network of healthcare workers, prominent public figures, trade unionists, social movement activists, solidarity institutions and political organizations launched an appeal in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The appeal calls for a solidarity-based and radical containment of the pandemic, which will not be at the expense of wage earners until all infections can be traced. The call puts the Zero CoVid perspective at the center of the debate. It follows a call by natural scientists with a similar thrust. Signatories are welcome.
We need a radical change in strategy now: not a controlled continuation of the pandemic, but its termination. We are committed to immediately reducing Sars-CoV-2 infections to the point where each individual infection can be traced again. The decisive action of several countries has shown that it is possible to stop the spread of the virus. However, we are convinced that the containment of the Sars-CoV-2 virus can only succeed if all measures are based on social solidarity.
That is why we are calling for these essential societal measures:
Down to Zero Together:
The first goal is to reduce contagions to zero. To avoid a ping-pong effect between countries and regions, action must be taken quickly and simultaneously in all European countries. Once this goal is achieved, restrictions can be carefully relaxed in a second step. Low case numbers must be kept stable with a control strategy, and local outbreaks must be vigorously contained immediately. Third, we also need a shared long-term vision - and regional and national action plans based on it. These include screening and vaccination strategies, protection of at-risk groups, and support for those most affected by the pandemic. To achieve this goal, we need a solidarity pause of a few weeks.
Shutdown means limiting our direct contacts to a minimum, including at work. Measures cannot be successful if they focus only on leisure time but exclude working hours. We need to shut down areas of the economy that are not urgently needed by society for a short period of time. Factories, offices, plants, construction sites, schools must be closed and compulsory work suspended. This pause must last until the above goals are achieved. It is important that the workers themselves shape the measures in the factories and enforce them together. With this appeal, we also call on the trade unions to stand up resolutely for the health of workers, to support the commitment of workers to their health and to organize the necessary large and joint break.
No one should be left behind:
People can only stay at home if they are financially secure. That's why a comprehensive rescue package is needed for everyone. People hit particularly hard by the effects of the shutdown will be given special support - such as people on low incomes, in cramped housing conditions, in violent environments, homeless people. Consolidated shelters must be dissolved, and people who have fled must be housed in a decentralized manner. People who do a particularly large amount of care work in the shutdown should be relieved by community facilities. Children receive instruction online, in small groups if necessary.
The entire health and care sector must be expanded immediately and sustainably. This also applies to health offices and authorities responsible for tracking infection chains. Staff must be increased in this area. Wages must be raised significantly. The profit motive in the health and care sector endangers collective health. We demand the reversal of previous privatizations and closures. The financing of hospitals through flat rates per case should be replaced by solidarity-based financing of needs.
Vaccines are a global common good:
A global pandemic can only be defeated globally. Public and private companies must immediately prepare and carry out the necessary production of vaccines. Vaccines should be removed from private profit-making. They are a result of the creative collaboration of many people; they must belong to all humanity.
The necessary measures cost a lot of money. Societies in Europe have accumulated enormous wealth, but a few wealthy people have appropriated it. With this wealth, the comprehensive work break and all solidarity measures can be financed without any problems. That is why we demand the introduction of a Europe-wide Covid solidarity levy on high wealth.