And now what? ― First thoughts on an antagonistic movement in times of pandemic

[Note: the following text was written and distributed in Greek in early April, during the first stages of the current pandemic/crisis. Some things have of course changed since then, but we decided that its translation into English is still of political value for the exchange of ideas within the global movement of social antagonism.]

And now what? First thoughts on an antagonistic movement prospect in times of pandemic 

“The street was now a narrow and unkempt path. Not as we knew it before. One thing was certain. We cannot go back. The past is still very close.”

– Morning Patrol, Nikos Nikolaidis 1987 

The rapid spread of a new form of coronavirus across the world, has meant for the states of developed capitalism for a new escalating attack on the lower classes, in the form of emergency measures. By stating this, we are in no way neglecting the fact that due to the pandemic we are found in an unprecedented condition with an increasing number of infections and deaths. We do however, distinguish between the actual risk of an epidemic (which requires a more general self-limitation of socialisation and social contact) and the militarized and disciplinary management of the Greek state. The latter seems to place more weight on the expected impact of the pandemic on the world economy and the corresponding consequences of an impending economic crisis, rather on preventing the mass spread of the virus and the treatment of vulnerable groups and deceased people.

The neoliberal capitalist restructuring that has taken place in recent decades, with the gradual disintegration of the welfare state, the public healthcare system and the entry of the private sector into the coverage of the state welfare structures, leave behind a health system that is completely exposed and incapable to cover, even outside of the context of the epidemic, the societal needs.  The high transmissibility of the virus, in the absence of a vaccine and appropriate medication, in this condition neoliberal disdain brings public health systems to the brink of collapse. More specifically, in the case of the Greek state, the imposition of memorandum measures of fiscal adjustment over the past 10 years, and the ongoing debt crisis have significantly exacerbated the damage to public (i.e. statal) healthcare structures.

The management of the current crisis by the Greek state and the capital highlights their  priorities. The strengthening of the public health system takes place in the logic of the pharmaceutical industrial complex and of the major health care providers, by funding private companies while the public sector is left on precarious and even voluntary terms. This direction is evident in the latest decision of the government to support private clinics in the form of financial compensation of 30 million euros.

In many public hospitals there are no protective measures, resulting in health workers themselves, while they are the ones fighting the real battle, are in turn exposed to the virus or even transmitting it. There is, therefore, an increasing emphasis on repression. This takes place through the constant emphasising of individual responsibility and the recent ban on movement where both have a clear aim to transfer the responsibility from the state and the bosses to the working classes through the construction of the ‘enemy within’.

From the state of emergency to the condition of constant exploitation 

In the public discourse, an ideological battle is being waged, in order to convince us that we all experience this state of emergency in the same way, regardless of our class or social position. At the same time, in workspaces, the battle is realised and turns into a state of exception and exclusion. We observe that the field of labour is changing dramatically: the forms that the doctrine of the bosses ‘create an opportunity out of  the crisis’ takes are among other things, overworking and teleworking. Employees in supermarkets and call centres and other places at the frontline, are overloaded with exhausting work hours, under dubious hygiene and protection conditions, and are forced to find ways of protecting themselves.

Companies that refuse to close down, transfer their services and production digitally, with the cost of the means of production falling, through telework, often on us, the workers (logistical infrastructure, work environment, etc), with the bosses being covered by even getting rent reduction. And all these apply in the case of you not being fired: indicatively, we had 40,000 redundancies in the first two weeks of March, according to the ergani information system. Bosses proceed with unilateral amendments or some termination of employment contracts, always covered by the state. Employees are forced into mandatory leave or fired, while the state support is always directed to companies.

Significant class differences in management, however, do not stop at the direct tactics and actions towards employees and the exclusion of much of the population from protection and care, but also extend to indirect ones. A good example of this is public transport functioning on reduced frequency, while the lockdown is still in place. The people who are currently using public transport are, for the most part, using them to get to and from work. As a result they find themselves in crowded buses and trains, unable to maintain the necessary distance from one another.

And once again, some of us are deemed redundant…

For the migrants in the camps, the prisoners, the homeless, all those who are made redundant not only are there no measures taken for their protection and care, but their conditions are getting worse. According to the latest guidelines, asylum seekers’ detention centers are being converted into closed prison structures, forcing migrants into dangerous and overcrowded conditions. Camp benefits have either dwindled or stopped altogether until further notice as did the provision of the already meager allowance from the UNHCR. Medical supplies are no longer available, and the staff working there and providing services, under the attempt to take measures against the virus, have reduced dramatically. People who are dependent on institutions, prisoners, detainees, and the homeless are not better off. All of the above reveal the deadly form of the measures against population that is deemed redundant, which is treated as expendable and, when it cannot be used directly by capital, it is doomed to physical and mental extinction.

Damage and care, or how we will meet again

In this condition, more than ever, we must reinvent the terms of strengthening the communities of struggle, as networks of class mutual aid, social self-organization, direct and horizontal communication between the exploited. But also, the circulation of the practical resistances against the repressive condition of the quarantine, as seen in the struggle of university students against the evictions of the student halls, the self-organisation of migrants against the pandemic and the state measures of exclusion/fencing in different camps across Greece, the acts of refusal by health workers erupting in places, the demonstration held by workers that have been fired via SMS at the airport, actively breaking the disciplinary ban on movement. These acts highlight how these impositions and prohibitions are reinforcing the overall restructuring and how the challenging and the political struggle against them on our part is moving side to side with the attentiveness, support and care our people.

The spreading of fear and confinement as a consequence of the quarantine, in addition to the material consequences, have serious psychological consequences, along with the escalation of domestic violence both psychological and physical, sexism and forced isolation within the domestic space. Staying at home is not equal for all people, neither from a gender perspective  (with the number of reported cases of domestic violence rising dramatically while other cases are left in the dark) nor from a class perspective (isolating yourself in a basement in Kypseli is not the same with isolating yourself in a mansion in Glyfada).

On these issues we have to redefine and determine the importance of community, activate and mobilise antagonistic movement networks, build new ones and stand together against the onslaught we are facing. That’s what we mean when we say communities of struggle, that’s our starting point. Communities against the state, collective good over individual good.

In the given situation of a pandemic, we recognize the need to adapt our means and our methods. We highlight the importance of continuing our means of intervening when necessary, the actual and political strengthening of struggles that are currently erupting, their circulation and enrichment with adding to their demands. In order to say “together” – and to mean it.

-Strengthening of Public Health and access to healthcare for all.  Stop criminal/deplorable shortages in hospitals. Immediate requisition of private clinics. Solidarity and support to workers in the field of healthcare and welfare.

-Complete suspension of work that is not necessary at this time, no obligatory work that involves exposure to danger. No dismissals due to the state of emergency. No salary reduction. We are not sharing the profits, we are not going to share the hassle. Proletarian refusal to pay rent, electricity, water, internet and all amenities.

-Immediate evacuation of migrant/refugee detention centers and transfer of migrants to safe open accommodation facilities, within the urban fabric. Complete and unconditional access to healthcare for all.

Assembly for the Circulation of Struggles / April 2020

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