Some socialist ideas for responding to the COVID-19 crisis

| March 26, 2020


Services and products for people in need are going to be a problem in the coming weeks. Supply chains are complex and some businesses along those chains will not be able to support production during this crisis – or support the necessary ramp-up in production needed. To sustain production, the state is going to have to step-in and direct procurement and investment. As such, nationalized production should be on the table if it looks too complicated to coordinate the private sector to get the goods we need to the people that need them. Here is a list of recommendations outlining how socialists should be framing their demands during this time.


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Introduction

Money supports for capital (and their markets) continue to be the focus of most governments. This is not surprising, it is their system and governments are going to prop them up. But, for the rest of use, the issue is going to be income and access to needed services and products.

While income issues can be dealt with through direct money to unemployed/sick/affected and debt, rent, and mortgage forgiveness (or delay in payment), most of these sensible calls are being drowned-out by the screams of the drowning business community.

One capital support socialists may be thinking about is the impact on insurance, pension plans, and the impacts on retiree income. This is not a small issue give the impact already felt by these plans.

Services and products for people in need (including health care and other front-line workers) are going to be a problem in the coming weeks. These supply chains can be exceedingly complex and businesses along those supply chains will struggle to keep going during a crisis, see the European and USA face mask fiasco. For this kind of production, the state is going to have to step-in and direct procurement, coordinate distribution, and fill gaps in production with nationalized industry. All options have to be on the table to stop supply chains from failing.

In Canada, the National Research Council (NRC) is the place to start. It used to produce medical (and other) products using its own patents from public research and development. This was started during the war efforts in the early 1900s, but expanded to health when Canada adopted its health act.

The medical research council spun off from the NRC was charged with public research and development of medical technology and methods. CIHR – the renamed and independent version of MRC – still supports research and development – with the private and public partners.

And, both the NRC and the CIHR are supporting the research side already.

Filling the gaps in production and supply chains for things we need is going to have to come from somewhere. And, throwing money at the problem – while trying to regulate the industry you just threw money at – during a crisis is failed strategy throughout history. Central coordination is going to be necessary in some places, and that should start as early as possible.

The best place to start is an immediate establishment of a national pharmacare program and a corresponding public production corporate to produce/procure medical services, pharmaceuticals, and products.

Phases of help

1. Support for laid off workers.

  • Income supports.

  • Debt forgiveness and delay.

  • Access to public support services.

2. Support for sick people.

  • Hospital supports.

  • Home care centralization.

  • Food production and distribution.

  • Additional income supports for families and those sick.

3. National investment in needed health supports.

  • Research in virus-related fields.

  • Research into medical device production.

  • Ownership of production of needed pharmaceuticals.

  • Release of any restrictive medical patents.

  • Production of needed medical devices.

4. National investment in mid-term health supports.

  • Ownership of production of medical devices.

  • Ownership and release of medical patents on devices and drugs.

  • Public ownership and investment into pharmaceutical company with R&D arm.

  • Specific investment in health related research.

Levels of intervention

State intervention in the private markets have started, but socialists should be pointing the way forward that will result in real supports for workers and their communities during this crisis.

  1. Money for liquidity.

  2. Debt forgiveness or delay.

  3. State coordination of supply chains.

  4. Rent delay.

  5. Mortgage payment delay.

  6. National procurement.

  7. State direction for procured services.

  8. Nationalization of failed and needed industry.

  9. State ownership and control of supply chains.

  10. Nationalization of banks/finance/local banking services.

  11. Investment into nationalized production based on immediate need.

Asks

The default "socialist" policy options will result in the best outcomes during and after this crisis. Even the right wing seem to understand that, but the word is being tip-toed around right now.

The regular socialist calls are vast, but should be put into language of current crisis for folks to understand.

  • Strengthened supports for workers affected by layoff, under-employment, and precarious employment. This means the elimination of limits to access of income support like EI put there to generate surpluses in EI during the 90's to fund tax reductions.

  • Increased long-term support for retirees who are, again, losing capacity for income from their retirement investments in the financial markets. This can take many forms, but involves government intervention in pensions funds in some form.

  • National control over supply chains for needed goods. This is necessary if we want things like food and even hand sanitizer to reach all people.

  • Coordinated distribution of social supports to all, starting with those in need. Look at the home care and long-term care disaster that is unfolding. We should be centralizing and coordinating home care (and maybe even the patients) to minimize risk to those receiving and providing home care and long-term care services.

  • State mandated production of certain goods either through procurement, nationalization of companies, or establishment of production efforts. This is obvious if we want something produced when employers are going bankrupt along supply chains.

  • Employment of workers who have been laid-off because of this crisis in newly directed production. Employment in areas like delivery, food preparation, maintenance of delivery infrastructure, and medical products production needs to be increased.

  • Private health care infrastructure re-purposing and nationalizations. We have private health labs not supporting this effort and private ambulance services that should be put under direct public control.

  • Nationalize and expand all child care programs, putting them under community control.

  • Elimination of fees and fee-collecting infrastructure to access public services. Resources should be reassigned from deciding if people can pay the marginal fee need access to supports to actually providing those needed services. This includes things like public transit.

  • Establishment of public pharmaceutical and health products company. We need one to produce and do what the private sector has not and will not do – invest in the drugs we need.

  • National coordination of telecom infrastructure supports and recruitment/hiring of technology workers to provide needed distance services and upgrades. This should include leveraging telecom infrastructure within the electricity utility sector – a sector that will start feeling the pressure from inability to pay for heat/electricity of home users.

  • Elimination of tuition fees and establishment of online teaching through universities that count toward degrees.

  • Recruitment of medical professionals through the elimination of economic and social barriers to post-secondary education.

  • Investment in expansion of hospital infrastructure.

  • A new program for oil and gas workers to support medical infrastructure and production/maintenance of medical products as well as basic utility infrastructure upgrades.

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