By the German Communist Party (DKP)
What is often referred to by the ruling media as the “coronavirus crisis” is in fact, regardless of the pandemic, the world’s deepest economic crisis for at least one hundred years.
It is a cyclical crisis of overproduction combined with structural crises in various economic sectors, with the coronavirus pandemic and related government action adding a special feature to this crisis.
This is also reflected in the lockdown measures in Germany. A consistent lockdown of all non-essential processes would have been quite appropriate. But it was not implemented in Germany. With the exception of a few corporations with direct, major state influence, such as Deutsche Bahn and Lufthansa, direct influence in the direction of a lockdown was avoided. Orders to close down companies were only issued when a scandal could not be covered up, such as in the meat industry. Even there, howev er, operations were not completely shut down. And the epidemic spread particularly violently there, be cause unbearable working conditions, especially for migrants, had been existing there for decades. Not much will change in the future, however, and there are already loopholes in the new legislation, as it only applies to large companies, which can now be split into smaller ones in order to escape the new regulations, which is already happening.
Other sec tors, such as the automotive industry, have used and continue to use the extended short-time working regulations with state funding of wage replacement benefits to mitigate the consequences of the cri sis and secure their profits. In Germany, short-time work is understood to be a regulation under which entrepreneurs can, under certain conditions, reduce the working hours – and thus the wages – of their workers entirely or partially if, for example, orders are lacking, in order to avoid dismissals. The work ers then receive a state benefit, the short-time work allowance. Since this amounts to only 60 % (67 % for workers with children) of net wages, workers suffer a considerable loss of pay, even though there are collective bargaining agreements in some areas for partial top-up payments. Although the short-time work allowance was temporarily increased during the pandemic, this does not compensate for the loss of income in any way.
The German government’s economic stimulus packages on the occasion of the “coronavirus crisis”, which amount to hundreds of billions of euros, are measures to secure the profits of large corporations, including those in the armament industry. By the way, only a minority of wage earners are employed in these corporations. The working people receive only a small part of these funds, and pay with loss of income, loss of employment, or short-time work. At the same time, the associations of the capital demand a reduction of the minimum wage, cuts in social spending, tax cuts for companies.
The class struggle from above is fought with all its rigor: millions of people are on short-time work, yet the number of people officially registered as unemployed has risen to over 6 percent. This means that in Germany, at present, about a quarter of the salaried employees are on short-time work, about 20 percent are in precarious employment, and 6 percent are unemployed, the latter figure being the official one; the actual number of unemployed is much higher.
However, the policy of financial support for large corporations shows that in the Federal Republic of Germany, money is indeed available, but also for whom it is available and for whom it is not. It is the task of the Communists to bring this into the consciousness of the working class and all laborers. They must counter the ideology of an alleged social partnership – all supposedly fighting together against the virus – and make it clear that “There is no WE in the class state!”
In the rich country of Germany, the health system was in no way prepared for the situation, although scenarios of a far-reaching epidemic had long been considered likely. The rampant privatization and profit orientation has been at the expense of both the employees and the patients. Even the money that flooded into the healthcare system in the face of the coronavirus epidemic has not been used to improve the infrastructure, but to secure profits.
The German communists therefore say: Health must not be a commodity; all health care facilities must be returned to public ownership. Health is a fundamental right. Also, the education system in Germany was not prepared for the pandemic situation. The consequences were passed on to the parents, the children, and the teachers. The pandemic aggravates social exclusion, and the consequences are particularly dramatic for children from poor families who do not have their own IT equipment, and who may not be able to receive assistance with distance learning. There is no special support for such families at all, the schools are poorly staffed, and all of this is now becoming particularly evident once again.
We demand more money for education, more staff, smaller classes, one school for all, no privatizations.
But the increasing economic exploitation is only one part of the class struggle from above. The ruling class is also concerned with dismantling democrat ic and social rights. The provisions of the Working Hours Act have already been undermined. Capital associations are demanding the erosion of protection against dismissal, more fixed-term contracts, the dismantling of the rights of workers’ councils. The right to demonstrate has been restricted with the justification of health protection. However, its restoration after the pandemic will certainly not be a matter of course, and tough fights will be necessary
The pandemic situation also demonstrated once again that the EU is an instrument of imperialist exploitation, especially by German imperialism. Countries such as Italy and Spain received no support whatsoever. On the contrary, when medical supplies were urgently needed in Italy, Germany imposed an export ban. This country, most affected by the coronavirus epidemic, received support from China, Cuba, and Russia, but not from the EU. The measures adopted by the EU in the meantime are also mainly aimed at stabilizing the financial system for the benefit of the strong EU countries.
Increased armament and militarization are also being pushed forward in the shadow of the pandemic. Further armament programs, the support of armament companies as part of the economic stimulus packages, but also getting used to the deployment of the German Armed Forces at home under the pretext of fighting the pandemic are all part of this. Even if the U.S. large-scale Defender 2020 maneuver, which was supported by other NATO states, including the Federal Republic of Germany, was reduced because of the coronavirus pandemic, this by no means ends the ongoing policy of encircling the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China. On the contrary, anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda continues to grow. Every opportunity is taken to tighten sanctions.
This year, the DKP has started a collection of signatures for the lifting of all sanctions, including those against Russia, China, Venezuela, Cuba, and Syria. We demand peace with China and Russia – let’s leave NATO!
Internationally, German imperialism is counting on NATO integration on the one hand, consciously embracing the role of a junior partner to US imperialism, while supporting the aggressive NATO strategy of military encirclement of the People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation. On the other hand, it is banking on the EU under its leadership, competing in this respect with French imperialism. The EU serves as a hinterland for its own strengthening and as an economic competitor to US imperialism.
NATO integration, EU leadership, and its own strengthening also lead to contradictions, including those between different capital factions in Germany. As to US imperialism’s economically aggressive policy toward the People’s Republic of China, parts of the capital and its government are divided because they need economic relations with the People’s Re public of China in their competition with US imperialism for their own strengthening. This also plays a role when it comes to dealing with the Russian Federation, as can be observed in the treatment of the North Stream 2 pipeline project.
The handling of the pandemic and the global economic crisis show more than clearly: capitalism is not able to solve the problems of the working people even in the slightest. It becomes quite obvious that a planned economy and socialization of the basic means of production are necessary, in short: a socialist development. The successes of the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam, and Cuba in combating the pandemic once again demonstrate the superiority of socialist development. To make such a development possible, that is, revolutionary changes toward socialism, a broad alliance against the monopoly capital is necessary. This is not possible with out a strong communist party. In this respect, we still have a lot of work to do.
#Special_Edition of the International Bulletin, Solidnet.org