despite very funny armachair debunking by c j hopkins, i maintain this thing is real

EU divisions erupt as anger mounts among workers over COVID-19 response
Alex Lantier, WSWS, Mar 30 2020

Amid the surging death toll and mounting anger at the official handling of the COVID-19 pandemic among workers, bitter divisions are erupting between the EU powers over how to finance massive bailouts granted to their banks and major corporations. It is clear that no faction of the European ruling class offers a way forward to fight the pandemic. Instead, COVID-19 is exposing the political rot left by decades of social austerity and bitter inter-imperialist conflicts between the major EU powers. Yesterday, as the world total of COVID-19 cases climbed to 721,277, and Pindostan led the world with 141,781 cases, Europe collectively had 382,823 identified cases of coronavirus. The European death toll had mounted to 24,138. These figures largely underestimate the number of the sick and the dead, as several European countries including France and Spain have already acknowledged that they deliberately do not count those who fall sick or die of COVID-19 at home or in retirement homes. Since nationwide wildcat strikes in Italy and walkouts across Europe forced governments to implement confinement orders demanded by health authorities, Italy, France, Spain, Britain and large parts of Germany are on lockdown. Nevertheless, governments and major corporations continue to press workers in industries like auto, steel and aerospace not essential to supplying the population with food and medicine to go to work, to boost corporate profits and the wealth of the financial aristocracy. COVID-19 keeps spreading faster than it would amid a tighter confinement policy, prolonging the pandemic and increasing the number of cases by thousands. This weekend, according to official statistics, saw 15,449 new recorded cases in Spain, 13,757 in Germany, 11,883 in Italy, 8,420 in France, 5,401 in Britain, and 2,331 in the Netherlands. Italy saw a record 1,808 COVID-19 deaths, Spain 1,617, France 618, Britain 441, the Netherlands 205, and Germany 166. An explosive confrontation is emerging between the European financial aristocracy and the working class. Anger is mounting among factory and service workers against employers’ attempts to force them to work, and among health workers against EU austerity measures that have slashed tens of billions of euros from state health budgets. With Madrid-area hospitals overwhelmed with severely ill COVID-19 patients, Rubén Herrera, a nurse in Alcalá de Henares, told El Pais:

We are working like in a war movie, with soldiers coming out of the trenches, that is the sort of medicine we do: as if it were wartime. We only think about the next seven or ten hours we have before us, hoping the emergency room will not collapse and that everyone can be protected. None of this would be happening this way without the cuts and privatizations, if in 2012 they had not cut 120 beds and 90 jobs from this hospital, and 2,100 beds and at least 2,200 health workers less in the entire region.

After a video went viral on Italian social media of a father giving his daughter a piece of bread, and warning that the population could attack supermarkets if they ran out of money to buy food, ruling circles are warning that riots could erupt across major EU cities in the coming weeks. Italian officials are reportedly posting guards outside supermarkets across southern Italy. However, similar problems face broader layers of temporary, self-employed and other precarious workers who have emerged across Europe, especially since the 2008 crisis. Francesco Rocca, head of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent societies (IFRC), told the UN:

We have a lot of people who are living very marginalized, in the so-called black hole of society. In the most difficult neighborhoods of the biggest cities, I am afraid that in a few weeks we will have social problems. This is a social bomb that can explode at any moment, because they don’t have any way to have an income. In my opinion, major Western cities could see mass unrest within a few weeks.

The confrontation emerging between the working class and the European police states set up by the financial aristocracy has revolutionary implications. The claim that there is no money to carry out a struggle against the pandemic is absurd. However, the necessary resources to halt the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain the distribution of essential food and medical supplies across international supply chains requires the expropriation of the financial aristocracy. Figures like Bernard Arnault (France, 2019 net worth: $106.8b), Armancio Ortega (Spain, $67.2b), Françoise Bettencourt Meyers (France, $49.3b), Karl Albrecht (Germany, $36.1b), Jim Ratcliffe (UK, $32b) or Giovanni Ferrero (Italy, $22.4b) and countless lesser financial aristocrats have plundered hundreds of billions from workers since 2008 alone. As an urgent matter of saving lives and maintaining public health, such fortunes must be impounded and used to plan a coordinated global response to the pandemic. The pursuit of such a policy falls to the European and international working class, in struggle against capitalism and for a socialist reorganization of society. It cannot be waged in alliance with any faction of the ruling class. The EU’s COVID-19 summit last Thursday in Brussels failed miserably. The pandemic has deeply split the EU, bringing to the fore the unresolved national conflicts between the EU powers revealed by the 2008 crisis and threatening to blow them apart. The heads of state summit collapsed after German, Dutch and Austrian officials refused demands from Italian and Spanish officials, echoing a joint statement signed with France, to jointly borrow money on credit markets to fund corporate bailouts. In response, Italian Prime Minister Conte refused to accept Berlin’s demands that COVID-19 bank bailouts be financed by the European Stability Mechanism (ESM). Borrowing from this fund, which imposed draconian austerity on Greece after 2008 as a precondition for lending it money to bail out EU banks, would allow the EU to impose similar conditions on Italy. The summit provoked anger in Italian media, including in pro-EU dailies. The Corriere della Sera wrote:

If the EU does not get together, the European project is finished.

La Repubblica concluded that the EU is an “ugly Europe.” In France, 94-year-old former head of the EU Commission Jacques Delors returned from retirement to warn that the EU could collapse:

The climate that seems to prevail among heads of state and the lack of European solidarity are a mortal danger to the EU. The microbe is back.

French President Emmanuel Macron, who declared during the Thursday summit that the EU’s survival was at stake, gave a joint interview Saturday to Corriere della Sera, La Repubblica and La Stampa, calling for “strong European solidarity on health and budget issues.” Conte granted a lead interview to El Pais, warning:

The EU is nearing a point of no return in terms of losing the confidence of its citizens.

Whether or not the EU powers cobble together some deal on funding their bailouts, the policy pursued by the European bourgeoisie will be hostile to the working class. The EU powers plan to hand hundreds of billions of euros to the banks and major corporations, from €756b in Germany to €300b in France or €200b in Spain, leaving crumbs for unemployment and other key social programs. Nor do these bailouts involve retooling industry to mass produce masks, medical equipment and other key supplies to fight COVID-19. The southern European bourgeoisie’s conflicts with Berlin involve not an attempt to save the population, but to save their own increasingly unstable wealth. They are desperate to obtain Berlin’s assistance to ensure they can borrow money on good terms because with Italy’s sovereign debt at 150% of GDP and France’s at nearly 100%, they are bankrupt in all but name. The working class cannot let itself be tied to any of the reactionary national camps within the European bourgeoisie. Amid growing anger and a developing radicalization of the workers, the way forward requires putting lives ahead of profits, expropriating the vast wealth of the super-rich that is needed to protect humanity, and adopting an internationally-coordinated plan against COVID-19 that leads towards socialism.

Here is C J Hopkins, from a mere 4 days ago:

The War On Death
C J Hopkins, Off-guardian, Mar 27 2020

OK, I’ve got some good news and I’ve got some bad news. The good news is mainly for authoritarians who missed all the fun during the War on Terror. The news is … welcome to the War on Death! Yes, that’s right, global capitalism (a/k/a “the world”) is now at war with Death … which is great news for authoritarians! No more bothersome critical thinking. The time for questioning our leaders is over. It’s time to shut up and follow orders. We’re in a global state of emergency, folks! We’re talking lockdowns, soldiers in the streets, abrogation of our constitutional rights, arbitrary arrests, indefinite detentions, round-the-clock media fear-propaganda … the whole totalitarian megillah! What, you’re probably asking, is the War on Death? Well … for those who remember the War on Terror, the War on Death is just like that, except this time the evil enemy is Death … or, all right, maybe not exactly like that, but there are a number of striking similarities. For one thing, just like the War on Terror, we didn’t start it. Death attacked us! There we were, peacefully going about our global capitalist business, quelling a worldwide “populist” rebellion orchestrated by Russian-backed Nazis, when Death attacked us with a coronavirus … more or less exactly the way that the terrorists attacked us in 2001. And, just like after those terrorist attacks, the world has united and forcefully responded. No, we haven’t invaded Iraq again (well, actually, we did bomb them a little), but we have locked down almost the entire planet, virtually shut down the global economy, and are scaring the masses into a state of unprecedented mass hysteria. Police are patrolling the streets of Europe, checking people’s “permission-to-go-outside” papers. In the UK, soldiers are standing by to assist with “protecting possible quarantine zones,” ready to “cope with the breakdown of civil society.” Israel is tapping its formerly secret collection of everyone’s mobile phone records to identify people who might be infected, and assorted “others who need to be quarantined.” In France, Macron (now relieved of his Gilets Jaunes problem!) is ready to “rule by decree” if necessary. California is “prepared to enact martial law.” The Pindo military is “prepared to deploy in support of potential extraordinary missions,” including “quelling civil disturbances.” The DoJ is asking Congress for the power to detain people indefinitely. The British Parliament is on the brink of passing an emergency “Coronavirus Bill” that will (among other unsettling provisions) grant authorities the power to arrest and indefinitely quarantine anyone they deem a “potentially infectious person” … or, in other words, pretty much anyone they want. As if that wasn’t dystopian enough:

Counter-terrorism troops have been redeployed across Italy to beef up police forces throughout Italian cities. Patrol cars are now circulating in every major city in Italy with a monotone male voice warning citizens over a loudspeaker not to leave their residences or risk a ticket. ‘GO BACK INTO YOUR HOMES,’ the voice warns.

But wait, it gets even better than that. In Missouri, prosecutors have charged an idiot who licked some items at Walmart as a “terrorist.” I kid you not, a Coronavirus Terrorist. I could go on, but I think you get the picture (if you need more examples, check this Twitter thread).

The point is, the global capitalist empire (for whatever reasons, real or imagined) has turned on the MINDLESS HYSTERIA machine, and dialed it up as high as it goes. People are in full-blown headless chicken mode. No one (or hardly anyone) is thinking, or listening to dissenting opinions, or paying attention to official statistics, or common sense, or anything else that contradicts the War on Death narrative. The British tabloids are publishing horror stories about “doctors” standing by and helplessly watching as patients slowly suffocate to death. According to such stories, not only are these “doctors” unable to treat roughly 400 patients with any of the UK’s over 8,000 ventilators, but apparently patients whose hearts have stopped (and who are therefore unconscious) are also now capable of “dying in agony” with “terror in their eyes.” According to the NYT, the Coronapocalypse has begun in Elmhurst, where the authorities have called in the refrigerator trucks to haul away the mountains of corpses, after 13 people who “had tested positive” died (of something) in the course of one day. The rest of the corporate media are running moment-by-moment deathometer updates, apocalyptic prognostications of the millions or billions who are possibly going to die, and of course the latest on which celebrities have been infected and are clinging to life, or experiencing mild, cold-like symptoms, or absolutely no symptoms whatsoever. Greta suspects she might have been infected! Prince Charles! Colton Underwood (whoever that is), Tom Hanks, and even Idris Elba! Just the other night, celebrated playwright Terrence McNally (who was 81, and had a history of lung cancer and COPD) was struck down in the prime of his life! In short, the authorities have whipped the masses into an orgy of shrieking, white-eyed FEAR of this new, evil, “invisible enemy” that is coming to kill them and their families. Millions of people (now confined in their homes) have taken to the Internet to pump up the hysteria, share totally un-sourced personal accounts of the horrors their therapists’ accountants’ doctors have personally witnessed on the war’s “front lines,” and hunt down any infected persons, or potentially infected persons (or otherwise uncooperative persons) who might have gone outside for some air. So, that’s the good news for you authoritarians! For the rest of us … yeah, not so good.

Oh, I almost forgot the bad news. The bad news is … well, the bad news is Death. The bad news is, you are going to die. I’m going to die. We are all going to die. All of us. We are going to die. We are going to die of … well, something. Cancer. A heart attack. A stroke. The flu. Diabetes. Alzheimer’s disease. Possibly a coronavirus. Maybe even this coronavirus. In fact, a lot of us are dying right now, according to the Internet, around a hundred per minute … which, it goes without saying, is unacceptable, and a tragedy, and something we need to take drastic action to prevent at all costs. We can’t let these Russian dissension sowers, neo-Nazi accelerationists, and coronavirus-sympathizers confuse us. They want to convince us that Death is, yes, scary, and sad, but inevitable, and natural. How utterly heartless and insane is that?! No, we need to close our minds to that nonsense. People are dying! This is not normal! Death is our enemy! We have to defeat it! We need to hunt down and neutralize Death! Root it out if its hidey hole and hang it like we did with Saddam! I’m not kidding. There is a war on, people! GloboCap is taking the gloves off again. (You remember what happens when the gloves come off, don’t you?) So get your mind right and get with the program or get ready to face the consequences. Relax, I’m not referring to all these tanks (2:34 in the NBC video). I’m referring to other consequences. I am not some crazy conspiracy theorist. Plus, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has assured us there’s no cause for concern:

If and when National Guard or military units are deployed to the streets of LA, trust me, I’ll let you know.

See? Everything is perfectly fine. No one is preparing for martial law. Those tanks just returned from the Middle East and are “being sent back home to Texas.” This kind of thing happens all the time. It has nothing to do with the global lockdown. I don’t know about you, but I’m extremely relieved … for a moment there I thought we were in trouble.

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