With the decline of the economy and the rise of mass strikes we have the ability to glitch the system and push substantive demands. As the working class we must be bold and creative in our challenges to power. The world belongs to the people, we built it and we refuse to sacrifice anyone else to the market to appease the desires of profit. By seizing control of the economy through a general strike we can improve immediate and long term labor conditions, reduce the harms of the pandemic and stop a genocide in progress. Through the collective strength of the masses we can defeat fascism.
Why a General Strike?
Workers of all sectors across the nation are unionizing and striking at rates not seen in decades. The power of the masses is strengthening everyday as a direct result of increasing mobilization and militancy on the part of an awakened proletariat. Many renters have also lost their source of income and are refusing to pay rent as part of a rent strike. Workers, renters, and the ballooning unemployed are for the first time in living memory positioned to halt production and direct it towards the betterment of all of humanity. We have no other choice. Our negligent leaders and bosses continue to force people into deadly circumstances where their health must be subservient to the needs of the market. They continue to delay essential goods and equipment from reaching hospitals, nurses and doctors. These delays will massacre entire cities and communities. People are being exposed to a novel virus with no existing treatment for the monetary gain of a small violent ruling class. If serious, permanent changes to our society aren’t made soon even more people will unnecessarily die. This is why we must strike - to prevent more deaths, to speed up production and distribution of essential goods for hospitals, universalize healthcare, to forgive debt and rent and raise the conditions and pay of the working class. The masses have started to win many of their demands but more work must be done.
Before COVID-19 hit most of us were already struggling with precarity, inconsistent employment, poor labor conditions, housing insecurity or homelessness, untenable debt, insufficient pay and high rent and utilities. The truth is the majority of the world’s people were always one missed paycheck from abject poverty and ruin and many were already there. The crash of the global economy, which will only worsen with time, exposes the cruelty and horror decades of austerity for the profit of business has caused us.The homeless and unemployed population will continue to increase in size because of this Global Great Depression and a lack of pre-existing healthcare and aid infrastructure to help manage this crisis. Something’s gotta give. We no longer can abide by unsafe working conditions and the rent racket especially when so many are completely unable to afford any basic expenses or are unable to pass up a paycheck in exchange for being potentially exposed. These conditions will worsen as the crisis peaks. But there is no going back to normal after this is finished. Normality is what produced the severity of this crisis. If it were even possible to return to normal we would continue to experience pandemics with massive losses of life in the future and next time the recovery rate might not be anywhere near as high. Could we survive multiple pandemics and global economic crashes like this if we continue business as usual? Decades of neoliberal austerity has stripped capitalism to its barest essentials as a militarized police state defending the hegemony of international poverty. In the failure of neoliberalism we have an unprecedented opportunity to create a better world. We’re not asking for temporary fixes or short term relief. We’re demanding a total revolution of society now and forever.
COVID-19 has also exacerbated the white supremacy at the center of American inequality. Racial attacks on Asian people, termination of the tribal status of the Wampanoag people, high rates of infection and death for Black people, the homeless left to die in the streets, vindictive sanctions that are killing whole countries, and the critical situation in the detention centers for migrants reflects the accelerating genocide of poverty and racial supremacy. This too isn’t new. These are crises existing in our society for centuries before this pandemic but the threat of creeping fascism from the state and its vigilantes seeks to deepen violence and oppression for the foreseeable future. White nationalists have attempted attacks on hospitals and to use the virus as a bioweapon for their race war. Meanwhile America’s migrants, forced into overcrowded detention centers with minimal access to healthcare, are being physically attacked by ICE agents for protesting their treatment. Unless these concentration camps are permanently shut down and everyone is released the coronavirus will sweep through these camps. The government’s refusal to end these conditions immediately is a genocidal negligence and will transform these concentration camps into death camps. Let’s remember that Anne Frank did not die in the gas chambers but from Typhus because of the overcrowded and poor living conditions and medical neglect she experienced. Withholding the essential resources for life from a population is genocide. This country was built on continuous ethnic cleansings and genocides. But now we have an opportunity to stop it once and for all. We must not allow American fascism to spill any more blood. Five hundred years of this rotten regime, not a single more.
With the decline of the economy and the rise of mass strikes we have the ability to glitch the system and push substantive demands. As the working class we must be bold and creative in our challenges to power. The world belongs to the people, we built it and we refuse to sacrifice anyone else to the market to appease the desires of profit. By seizing control of the economy through a general strike we can improve immediate and long term labor conditions, reduce the harms of the pandemic and stop a genocide in progress. Through the collective strength of the masses we can defeat fascism. Never Again! Strike Against Genocide!
Why the Language of Concentration Camps, Genocide, etc?
Some rightwing voices find the language of concentration camps to be controversial, especially when describing our current crisis. Some argue that it is disrespectful to the Jewish trauma of Ha Shoah to use the language to refer to anything other than Nazi death camps. These perspectives are ahistorical and lack context, instead attempting to disorient people. The Holocaust was not the first time Germany had used the concentration camp. They used it earlier in their colonial war against Namibia. The first usage of the concentration camp dates back to the British in South Africa during the Boer War. The United States is not even new to the concentration camp. They were used to round up Asian (particularly Japanese) citizens during World War II directly paralleling developments in racial ideology that we would also see in Nazi Germany. America has the longest running concentration camps in the world - we call them reservations. In all of these examples the purpose was to concentrate a population into a series of isolated enclosures under armed guard and with minimal resources. Many detractors would say the detention centers or reservations or Japanese internment camps were not “truly” concentration camps because there are/were not gas chambers and mass executions. This is a point that ignores how death camps develop. It’s important to remember that concentration camps are distinct from death camps. The Nazi concentration camps were open for a decade before explicitly being used for the purpose of mass extermination but they did not begin as sites of genocide. Anne Frank did not die in the gas chambers but from Typhus she would not have received if not for the poor and overcrowded conditions of the camps. America’s answer to the “Immigrant Question” is to mirror Germany’s answer to the “Jewish Question” and overcrowd people into cells. This is why we must strike against genocide.
How Do I Organize a General Strike During a Crisis?
From the Masses: It is of the upmost importance that any political organizing for a strike come from and be led by the masses, the working class. Too often when movements are created they are led by petite bourgeois (“middle class”) professional activists or politicians. This distorts movements towards supporting the careers of advocates for piecemeal reforms instead of building permanent people power and changing the balance of forces in our society. From our experience as working class organizers we’ve seen again and again what happens to movements when they are dominated by specific electoral campaigns or non-profit organizations: they lose energy and slowly dissipate, having made minimal impact on the lives of everyday people. The focus should not be on the personalities and egos of individual careerists and social climbers but on the real needs and wants of the people. When leadership is in the hands of the masses demands which actually serve our needs can be put forth and advanced.
Serving the People Through Mutual Aid Disaster Relief: Social distancing provides a series of challenges for traditional organizing. Not being able to meet people in person is a severe limitation however there’s ways around this. Any successful organizing effort begins with relationship building. You must get to know your neighbors, your coworkers and the larger community. Based on the experiences of the Portland Rent Strike movement and the COVID-19 Portland Oregon Area Community Support mutual aid group, which Strike Against Genocide developed from, we believe any strike organizing must begin with the creation of mutual aid groups. Mutual aid disaster relief groups can be organized online and is a great way to build relationships with the community. People need groceries, medications and other medical aid, housing, services, etc that are difficult for individuals alone to coordinate under quarantine. There’s a desperate amount of need within the community that can only be addressed by the community. Mutual aid should be the basis for all other political work. Mutual aid groups can raise the political consciousness of the masses toward mass radical action. By directly meeting the needs of the people a network of support also develops that allows for future sustained collective action. Demands and tactics previously considered impossible are already reshaping the world for the better.
Organizing Sector Strikes Toward a General Strike: When what became the Portland Rent Strike began as a mutual aid group online we weren’t just coordinating and distributing resources. From the very beginning the group was a vehicle for a rent freeze and forgiveness demand. Due to the inadequate policies passed by state and city governments workers in Portland began agitating - first publishing a petition that nearly has 40,000 signatures and then escalating towards the citywide rent strike. Now in the first month of the rent strike we’ve seen the demand become international as well as a wave of wildcat strikes by workers. Renters, service and gig workers, medical workers, and more organized their own independent strikes one after another. This requires educating your fellow renters and co-workers on their rights, creating demands, posters and letter templates for renters to landlords, and distributing information on how to withhold labor and rent during quarantine. Connecting all this work to mutual aid organizations provides a hub of support for renters, strikers and the homeless to continue the struggle for extended periods of time. Once a number of strikes from across different industries and sectors are off the ground they can be linked together, bringing the renters movement into the workers movement, into the prison and detention center hunger strike movement, into anti-debt movements and vice versa. That is the basis for a general strike. A general strike will be most successful when as much of the economy is halted or slowed down as possible for as long as possible. This is only possible through broad coalitions acting in solidarity.
Build Dual Power, Communize: As capitalism and the state further retreats from people’s lives and the need for mutual aid increases there will be need for higher levels of coordination, organization and targets. The state has abandoned the people and in order to ensure our mutual survival new institutions which serve our interests and not the interests of capital must be created. If that sounds daunting or impossible remind yourself that this process is already underway. Movements are liberating homes for the homeless, building eviction defense networks, providing community self-defense and organizing their own communities in large absence of business and government. There will be a need for committees, councils and people’s assemblies in order to coordinate an ever expanding set of needs. By empowering the community to direct itself through parallel institutions we can ensure a long term survival plan as the crisis worsens and weakens the state’s ability to function. It also builds the power of the masses to make stronger demands and sustain an extended struggle.
International Solidarity: The impacts of COVID-19 are not local or national but international. Because of our fascist American government the necessary steps to ensure the health and safety of the majority of the world’s people are not being taken. The U.S. military is seizing medical supplies and food from nations it is unofficially at war with and maintaining harsh sanctions which will significantly contribute to the global death count. Because the impact of COVID-19 is not national or local that means so too must our organizing not be limited to national or local boundaries. Strike movements and mutual aid groups are appearing across the globe. They must be linked together and with various movements working against sanctions. The revolution is already underway but it will only succeed in changing the course of human history if we are organized and working together. It is important to build international relationships and agitate for supplies to be distributed to every country in need. If we are survive this pandemic at all it will only be through international coordination and cooperation.
Minimum Demands//How to Stop a Genocide
- Permanently Close the Concentration Camps Before They Become Death Camps: American detention centers are overcrowded and do not have the resources to handle a pandemic. This is by design.
- Permanently Disband Immigration Customs and Enforcement and the Border Patrol.
- Abolish All Legal Distinctions of Citizenship: The history of citizenship laws is fraught with racial supremacy and exclusion, from Nazi Germany to the United States.
- Free the Prisoners and Close the Prisons Before They Become Mass Graves: Prisons are experiencing infection rates several times that of the general population. It is simply impossible to respect social distancing while in prison. Prisoners must be freed and prisons shut down in order to prevent a genocidal sweep of Black and Latino people within prison walls.
-Immediately Reverse the Termination of the Wampanoag: A pandemic should never be used to further settler colonialism. The Mashpee Wampanoag’s tribal status was terminated during a time when they need all the assistance they can receive in order to fight against the virus.
- Free Mass Testing, Medical Supplies and Healthcare for All Now and Forever.
- Collaborate with Cuba to Distribute Interferon Alfa-2B to Hospitals: Cuba already has an effective antiviral treatment for COVID-19 but due to the backwards policies of the United States this essential medication is kept out of the hands of American doctors and patients. We must reopen diplomatic channels immediately and collaborate with Cuba on distributing this medication in order to save lives.
- Africa is Not a Laboratory and Neither is Detroit, Ethical Testing Only!: We take suggestions that the continent of Africa or Black majority cities such as Detroit could and should be used as testing sites for potentially unsafe treatments very seriously. Such practices are eugenicist and should be outlawed.
- Homes for Everyone Now and Forever: No one should be homeless. No one should be homeless during a pandemic. Everyone must be kept safe and healthy by having permanent stable housing.
- Immediate AND Long-Term Financial Relief: We’ve long been overburdened with medical, credit card, student loan and other forms of debt but now these debts are especially untenable. Not only are we not able to pay now but we will not be able to pay when this crisis has ended. All debt and rent must be forgiven. Other relief may be necessary too.
- End Sanctions and Blockades: United States sanctions are needlessly cruel especially during a pandemic. No nation should be deprived of the basic resources to aid its people.
- Immediately Cease Seizure of Other Nation’s Medical Supplies.