As we head into the winter holidays nervously checking news about the Omicron variant and rising COVID-19 case numbers, let’s take a moment to think of how a more just society might handle the coming weeks.
Remote options would be offered by many workplaces and schools for the last week of Christmas, in order to slow down the spread of the disease just before people gather with their older relatives and those with immunocompromised loved one. All holiday travelers would receive free rapid tests at bus stations and airports. Pharmaceutical companies and wealthy nations would have had to share vaccine supplies with the rest the world. prevented Omicron in the first place.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that society, but rather in one that hoards vaccine supplies, and in which leaders like New York Gov. Kathy Hochul urge workers to be forced back into officesEven though they know that hospitals will be pushed to the breaking pointby the COVID spike. It is because of this greedy and short-term thinking, that the U.S. now enters a fifth wave. the dream of eradicating COVID is dead — despite the astonishing success of scientists in quickly developing effective vaccines.
The personal sadness many feel about another holiday season being destroyed is matched by the political doom that follows a year of expectations being steadily lower. As frightening as the first year of COVID was, it was also a time of hope and new possibilities — fueled first by Sen. Bernie Sanders’s insurgent presidential campaign, and then by the summer’s historic movement for Black lives uprisings. It was common to hear talk in the mainstream press of how the pandemic revealed the need for deep structural changes, and President Joe Biden’s first stimulus bill — the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — offered hope that the country’s political leaders might actually do something for once.
However, since then, Biden has reverted to the inadequate centrismThat has been his hallmark throughout his career. While the new administration has thankfully not continued its predecessor’s daily stream of misinformation about masks and fake cures, it left in place many of former President Donald Trump’s most disastrous COVID policies, including:
Finally, there have been Biden’s proclamations that the pandemic is overHis boasting about how well his administration has managed the pandemic, while ignoring the fact that he is a liar. death rate under Biden’s watchTrump has made it as terrible as ever. The political class has made mass death so commonplace that it is now considered normal. Biden team seems genuinely confused that in the midst of a historic plague, more Americans aren’t happier about some positive economic statistics.
The ruling class may be impatient for us to get over it already, but for many Americans, the profound questioning of priorities that started in 2020 didn’t stop in 2021. Instead, the focus has shifted away from collective political movements to individual choices in life. Record numbers of peopleIn 2021, many people have left their jobs for a variety of reasons. taking an early retirementFrom deciding that contagion risk has made already poor jobs unaffordable, to programs such as the American Rescue Plan or eviction moratoriums, which allow some to save money on child-care and transportation by staying at home. The so-called “Great Resignation” is the culmination of five decades of declining working-class conditions on and off the job, and it offers a glimpse of the societal upheaval waiting to be unleashed when just the slightest hint of an actual social welfare state removes the immediate threat of hunger and homelessness.
The resulting labor shortage had many consequences: From massive supply chain backlogs Result of unfilled truck driving and warehouse jobs; to higher wage growthEmployers are often forced to offer raises in order to fill vacant positions. This has serious consequences. hospitalsAnd schoolsOverstretched workers are leaving in large numbers. It’s a period of sustained chaos, but also the first moment in generations when the power of workers is making itself really felt, and when workers aren’t silently bearing the crisis but shoving it back in the bosses’ faces.
The left can play a significant role in expressing the feelings of workers in America, who are claiming that life is more important then a miserable job. We can organize some of these actions and link them to a set policy demands that will strike a blow to right-wing nationalism while putting Democrats in notice that we are not as willing. accept a million deaths.
To do this, we must regain our sense of direction. Since 2020’s initial months, the left has been unable to respond to COVID. Hard questions like vaccine mandates and school closures have divided us, while more unifying and crucial demands such as ending Big Pharma’s vaccine monopoly haven’t garnered enough organizing. Most of us were demobilized over the last year as we watched the agonizing process of the Democrats’ once-promising Build Back Better bill undergo death by a thousand Joe Manchin shrugs. Of course, like everyone else, we’ve also been ground down by two years of grief, anxiety and depression — and hoped that the vaccines would end the pandemic and allow us to return to previous organizing work.
Now that we know that’s not happening, it’s time for a reset. These are my resolutions for the New Year.
- We will accept that COVID will be around for the long-term. We will not allow ourselves to be distracted by each new variant or spike. Instead, we will adjust our movement demands and organize strategies to address this permanently altered world.
- We will not give in to fatalism and stop fighting to reduce the virus’s spread. We will not accept normalization of mass deaths. The fact that we will not eradicate COVID doesn’t mean we stop striving to protect the immunocompromised and elderly, and those of us who feel more protected by the vaccines should be wary of how little we know about the effects of long COVIDThe possibilities of future vaccine resistant strains.
- We will shine a spotlight on the enormous concentrations wealth that should be used both to protect us against COVID and to increase minimum pay and staffing levels, which are driving workers to quit. Billionaires who have increased their wealth by almost a quarter of a billion dollars received much media attention. $4 billionDespite the fact that the pandemic was only nine months old, attention to it has waned as billionaires have accumulated wealth. grew even faster in 2021. Then there’s the three quarters of a trillion dollars going to military spending every year, none of which will protect us from a disease that has killed more Americans than every single war of the 20th and 21st centuries combined. This should be known by everyone. the entire world could be vaccinated for the extra $25 billionCongress just tossing the Pentagon for no apparent reason.
- We will put our heads together and come up with an easily understandable Green New Deal-style framework for COVID justice that shows that public health can’t be separated from economic, racial and global equality. Taxes on the rich; sharing vaccines across the globe; free and abundant rapid testing; disability coverage for those with long COVID; freeing the incarcerated; universal paid sick leave… The list could go on forever but we cannot make lists forever, so we will need public debate and strategic thinking.
- We won’t be spectators. There were many great proposals in the Democrats’ original budget reconciliation bill crafted by Senator Sanders, but few grassroots attempts To mobilize protest, these proposals were ruthlessly ripped out by centrist Democrats one by one. Next year may be a major election year, but we can’t afford to let the Democratic Party shape our COVID agenda. In 2022, we have to reorient and give voice to all those straining to resist the push in both parties to make previously unthinkable levels of death become the new “business as usual.”