The media and the politicians are telling us that many of us in Melbourne, Victoria are experiencing lockdown fatigue. That the people that are defying the lockdown laws are crazy or antisocial. They are telling us to hang in there, that we are all in this together.
There is another way to understand this fatigue.
It is not fatigue. It is desperation and fear. Economic collapse is frightening. It is frightening for workers, particularly casuals and people on visas, it is frightening for small business owners and it is frightening for sole traders, it is frightening for people who are unemployed and at the mercy of government decrees.
Some politicians are trying to extend their State of Emergency powers. People that have been ruined by economic collapse are fighting back, but in the absence of any meaningful leadership from the working class, they are fighting on economic demands that will only benefit one or other side of the capitalists.
“It looks like the choices for workers are to either defend the State and the increasing emergency powers, or to defend those fighting against this, amongst them, the fascists. But there is another option.”
Some of these people are saying that the lockdown laws are not necessary. They are saying this because they need business to start up again. So that they can work, and so that they can eat, and so that they can pay their bills and their rent. Amongst these people protesting the use of power by the state to shut everything down, there are organised fascists. But medical experts say that the lockdown is necessary to stop COVID-19 from spreading. In Victoria, based on the daily numbers, the lockdown seems to be working. However, from a social point of view, it is not working. Because people are losing their jobs and their livelihoods, they are scared and they are pushing back.
It looks like the choices for workers are to either defend the State and the increasing emergency powers, or to defend those fighting against this, amongst them, the fascists.
This is no choice for workers. There is another way.
We must demand a living income for all. So that even if people cannot go to work, they can still eat, and they can still pay their bills and their rent. They can still access medical services in their home, they can still take care of their mental health while we are in isolation, and they can still pay for in home entertainment and activities, while we are locked down.
A living income for all includes small business owners and sole traders. These people are not workers, but they are still oppressed by the ruling class. If we don’t defend all the layers of society oppressed by the ruling class and as a result ruined by the economic crisis, then we risk driving them into the hands of the fascists.
The working class is the only force in society strong enough to fight back against the ruling class, but we must lead the fight for a society without oppression and exploitation, not just for a better deal for workers. Our power comes from our collective, productive role in the economy. We make all of the food, power all of the transport, move goods from ships onto land, onto trucks and into warehouses, we care for the sick, educate the children, keep the roads clean, build essential infrastructure, and make the energy that keeps everything going. If we stop, there is nothing they can do. The managers and the bosses cannot run the entire hospital network, they cannot drive all of the public transport, they cannot unload all of the ships, they cannot teach all of the children, they cannot build all of the essential infrastructure, they cannot build and maintain the roads.
How we use this power, and for what, is a matter of political decisions and organisation. We must be organised, we must have democratic, open discussions in our unions about how we use our power and how we will defend ourselves against the bosses when they attack us back.
We demand: A living income for all. Free healthcare for all. Secure housing for all.
We must organise around these demands. We must take collective, cross-industry action in defence of these demands.
We must fight. If we don’t, we will lose.