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COVID-19 as a Weapon. The Crushing of the Disposable Working Class – by Design

April 13, 2020

 

By Cory Morningstar

 

[Due to the urgent need for the dissemination of this information, the following research is being presented in a simple concise format, similar to a timeline.]

 

“The largest economic transformation in the history of mankind”

 

The arrogance and brutality of the ruling class – is nothing less than breathtaking.

Let’s begin.

April 9 2020, Business Insider: “Many Americans will not have jobs to return to after the coronavirus pandemic ends, according to former US presidential candidate Andrew Yang”:

“Many Americans will not have jobs to return to after the coronavirus pandemic ends…”

 

“We’re going to see something like 10 years of change in 10 weeks…”

 

“The fact is right now this virus is the perfect environment for companies to get rid of people, bring in robots and machines, and figure out how they can operate more efficiently.”

 

“Universal basic income is going to become the topic, not just here in the United States, but Spain’s adopting a version of a minimum income. Legislatures around Europe are all very, very much focused on this.”

 

“We’re going to see the progressive Amazonification of our economy as Amazon’s one of the only businesses out there that’s hiring more and more. You’re seeing more robots are in grocery store aisles cleaning after we all supposedly go home…”

 

“One thing I’ve been saying is that we’re going to see something like 10 years of change in 10 weeks, because businesses are being put in a position where it makes sense to speed up a lot of the automation that they were considering investing in.”

 

“The fact is right now this virus is the perfect environment for companies to get rid of people, bring in robots and machines, and figure out how they can operate more efficiently.”

 

“My kids are at home just like everyone else’s kids and they’re getting taught online…they’re going to be many, many families that actually make a different determination where they actually say, “Hey, this online thing is working well.”

 

“If you can find a way to, frankly, make yourself useful from afar, that’s going to be something that unfortunately we all have to think about more and more.”

 

“I think at this point it’s actually going to need to be a bit higher than that, because the $1,000 a month is enough for baseline needs for at least most of us, but the economy is going to become even more inhuman and punishing, both during this crisis and afterwards.”

 

“… I’d be looking at something higher than $1,000 a month that would be more robust & helping people not just be able to meet their needs, but also have a real path forward.”

 

“we’re going to be dealing with the consequences of this crisis for years to come, and we need a Marshal Plan style initiative to rebuild the country… helping create that vision for what America in 2022, 2023, is going to look like after we have a vaccine in place.”

March 31 2020, Business Insider: “RESTAURANT APOCALYPSE: More than 110,000 restaurants expect to close up forever in the coming weeks, with millions out of work and the industry’s future uncertain.”

And while the Amazonification of our economy ploughs full steam ahead, independent shops and services are pounded into dust, while public services are shut down, opening the door for further privatization. While prepping the citizenry for coming and required “certifications”, the deliberate and violent contraction of the economy continues. The decimation of small enterprise with monetary wealth directed, again, upward. McDonald’s, Starbucks and Walmart (“essential services”) remain open while small business is forced to remain closed. On April 13 2020, Amazon announced they would hire Amazon will hire an additional 75,000 workers to keep up with its soaring volume of online sales.

 

Andrew Yang, Twitter, April 9, 2020: "Investors pay for returns not jobs."

Andrew Yang, Twitter, April 9, 2020: “Investors pay for returns not jobs.”

 

"Wow. Pope Francis today: 'This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage.' Game-changing."

“Wow. Pope Francis today: ‘This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage.’ Game-changing.”

 

A brilliant idea: We all live on $1,000 a month – when Klaus Schwab, Andrew Yang, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, Bezos, et al. – live on $1,000 a month. The rich are dangerous, calculating, insane hypocrites.

April 12 2020, Business Insider: “Pope Francis says it might be ‘time to consider a universal basic wage’ in Easter letter”:

“In an Easter letter to leaders of prominent social movements, Pope Francis suggested that it might be time for countries to consider a universal basic wage.

 

“This may be the time to consider a universal basic wage which would acknowledge and dignify the noble, essential tasks you carry out,” The Pope wrote in his letter.

 

Over a dozen countries are implementing or experimenting with some form of temporary or permanent universal basic income in response to the current economic devastation and massive unemployment.”

Feb 28 2020, Business Insider:

“The pope has joined forces with Microsoft and IBM to create a doctrine for ethical AI and facial recognition. Here’s how the Vatican wants to shape AI.”

The Pope’s collaboration with corporate giant Microsoft and the Vatican Bank is deep into social impact investing. Citizens on UBI [Universal Basic Income] will still require privatized public services – a massive impact market. [Source]

Impact investing is predicated on turning people into investments as human capital. [Further reading]

Middle class? They’re coming after you too.

Oct 18 2019, Slate MoneyBox, Andrew Yang Keeps Talking About the Fourth Industrial Revolution. What the Heck Is That?:

“Yang likes branding. He calls his marquee policy idea—a UBI of $1,000 a month—a “freedom dividend.” …And lately, he can’t stop talking about “the fourth industrial revolution.”

 

“The fourth industrial revolution is the shorthand Yang now uses to describe the wave of massive technological change that he believes has decimated manufacturing employment and will soon automate away millions of American jobs.”

 

“The fourth industrial revolution is now migrating from manufacturing workers to retail, call centers, transportation, as well as to white-collar workers like attorneys, pharmacists, and radiologists…”

 

“In a World Economic Forum video from 2016, experts offered up predictions such as ‘Our bodies will be so high-tech we won’t really be able to distinguish between what’s natural and what’s artificial…'”

 

“It’s self-serious, Star Trek–style sci-fi for people who wear expensive suits and maybe have an endowed lab at Harvard. These are the intellectual waters Yang swims in, and that’s disconcerting. Aside from the fact that these conferences tend to be pretty intellectually bankrupt”—even JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon has joked that “Davos is where billionaires tell millionaires about what the middle class feels”—they by definition reflect the interests and values of the global capitalist class.”

June 20 2019, World Economic Forum: “Can UBI survive financialization?”:

“Following this pattern, by providing a stable income stream and thus a reliable form of collateral, paid by the state, UBI would strengthen and even create financial markets, particularly for consumer credit, mortgages, and pensions. Far from serving as a revolutionary route to freedom from the whip of the market, UBI may end up yoking all citizens to rentier capital through indebtedness.”

Jan 31 2019, Wrench in the Gears, “Good Guy in Davos? Not So Fast”:

” This panel and the viral video clips flying around the internet are a brand-building exercise for Bergman’s neoliberal snake oil. If UBI is implemented in the current climate of austerity, economic precarity, and social entrepreneurship, you can be sure payments will be linked to digital identity to track “impact.” That $1,000 a month distribution will be just enough to scrape by. But hey, you’ll be able to sell personal data if you want more than gruel for dinner. Check out the Netherlands’ foray into personal data curation via the DecodeProject.eu here. It’s being run in partnership with NESTA, the global impact innovation unit out of the UK.”

March 26 2020, The London Freepress: “Keep it quiet, but universal basic income is coming”:

“You think that after six months or a year of this we will just go back tamely to the old economic rules? I rather doubt it.”

 

The rise of fascism & the 2nd World War required the creation of the full welfare state… The current emergency may be fostering the rise of ideas previously seen as too radical to contemplate…”

July 31, 2017, World Economic Forum, “We should let the robots take our jobs – and then pay us all a basic income”:

“As developments in artificial intelligence and robotics advance, there is going to be a severe and swift disruption of many working classes.”

 

“UBI, an economic proposition in which a sum of money is regularly paid to a population, could be a vital bulwark against the unintended consequences of automation in the workforce.”

 

“Companies will profit significantly from workforce automation, so the private sector will be able to afford shouldering this burden, while at the same time still making greater profits.”

 

“After all, a full-time human has needs: 30 minutes for lunch each day, vacation and sick time, toilet breaks, and health benefits, to name a few. Meanwhile, an automated worker would only require an initial installation and the occasional repair or upgrade.”

 

“The BCG report stated that a human welder today is paid around $25 an hour (including benefits) versus the equivalent operating cost of around $8 for a robot.”

 

“In 15 years, that gap will widen even more dramatically,” the report states. “The operating cost per hour for a robot doing similar welding tasks could plunge to as little as $2 when performance improvements are factored in.”

 

“This trend will only continue to accelerate. McDonald’s, an early pioneer of automation, is already replacing human workers with automated kiosks. They expect a 5% to 9% return on investment in just the first year; in 2019 they expect this return to balloon to double digits.”

 

“And this is only one sector: PricewaterhouseCoopers estimates that 38% of US jobs will be in danger of being replaced by automation by 2030.”

 

“Companies that automate their workforces should be taxed on these new massive profits, and some of the resulting capital given back to workers by the government in the form of UBI.”

 

“While the idea of a UBI is popular—Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk, and Bill Gates have all championed it—how exactly would a universal basic income be engineered?

 

“Large swaths of laborers are going to lose their jobs, leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment.”

That moment has arrived.

March 18 2020: Over 500 academics and public figures called on governments to implement universal basic income via an open letter: “It is time for governments to enact emergency universal basic income, ensuring that everyone in their jurisdiction has enough money to buy the food and other essentials they need to survive.”

 Close to 50% of all U.S. jobs may be automated this decade. Globally? Over 50% by 2055. A disposable working class.

Close to 50% of all U.S. jobs may be automated this decade. Globally? Over 50% by 2055. A disposable working class.

 

McKinsey places the number of jobs to be replaced by automation at close to 50% by 2030. The COVID-19 virus provides an opportune moment to push the envelope of automation forward.

April 9 2020: “Global statistics reported by UNESCO reveal that since the last week of March roughly 1.7 billion students from pre-primary to tertiary education levels are out of school, affecting 91.3 percent of all enrolled learners and including every student in 188 countries that have mandated nationwide closures. With most schools set to remain closed through the rest of the current academic year, the scale of these closures is unprecedented in the history of world capitalism.”

We must recognize we live in a capitalist economic system that serves capital first & foremost. Further, it is imperative to recognize that the UN & UN agencies, inclusive of the WHO (WEF/Gates), exist in name only. The WEF is at the helm of a consolidation of global power.

We must recognize we live in a capitalist economic system that serves capital first & foremost. Further, it is imperative to recognize that the UN & UN agencies, inclusive of the WHO (WEF/Gates), exist in name only. The WEF is at the helm of a consolidation of global power.

 

January 2020, World Economic Forum: “The notion of an educator as the knowledge-holder who imparts wisdom to their pupils is no longer fit for the purpose of a 21st-century education.”

March 2020, McKinsey & Co: “Beyond coronavirus: The path to the next normal”:

“The crisis will reveal not just vulnerabilities but opportunities to improve the performance of businesses. Leaders will need to reconsider which costs are truly fixed versus variable, as the shutting down of huge swaths of production sheds light on what is ultimately required versus nice to have. Decisions about how far to flex operations without loss of efficiency will likewise be informed by the experience of closing down much of global production. Opportunities to push the envelope of technology adoption will be accelerated by rapid learning about what it takes to drive productivity when labor is unavailable. The result: a stronger sense of what makes business more resilient to shocks, more productive, and better able to deliver to customers.”

April 4, 2020: “This pandemic has optimized the “testing” of robots and drones in broad daylight …Zoom’s video conferencing platform has detonated in popularity as stay-at-home commands have cleared the globe and some of the credit for having the option to keep up with demand goes to automation…’We have automation set up so we can rapidly scale our foundation, the network as well as the compute infrastructure with next to no human intercession’… the organization is getting enthusiasm for purchasing robots to clean office spaces, production floors, retail locations, grocery stores, airports, lodgings and cafés.” [Source]

March 23 2020, CNBC, “Inside the hospital in China where coronavirus patients were treated by robots”

“The idea of humanoid robots taking jobs previously done by humans may feel dystopian, but in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic, robots can free up human hospital medical staff and limit the possibility virus spread…

 

For a time in March, “a previously human-run field hospital located inside Hong Shan Sports Center located in Wuhan was converted … into a robot-led field hospital staffed entirely by robots and other smart [Internet of Things] devices,” CloudMinds CEO and founder Bill Huang tells CNBC Make It, in a statement…

 

Called HARIX (Human Augmented Robot Intelligence with eXtreme Reality), “this AI platform, synced with smart bracelets and rings worn by patients, was able to monitor patient vital signs (including temperature, heart rate, blood oxygen levels), allowing doctors and nurses outside the facility to monitor all patient vital information remotely on one interface…”

April 7, 2020: Morningstar: “Spain to become first European country to introduce Universal Basic Income”.

Jan 26 2018, World Economic Forum, “Creating a Shared Future in a Fractured World Global Agenda”:

“… with some economists suggesting that automation could potentially replace over half of all jobs by 2055… the disruption to workers’ lives will be significant.”

Sep 24 2019, António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations:

“And we must look at the 2030 Agenda not through the prism of the economy of the last decade, but the economy of the next decade, seizing the potential of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and safeguarding against its dangers.”

Here it is important to note that also on March 11, 2020, the World Economic Forum announced a partnership with the WHO (a UN agency) to form the COVID-19 Action Platform – a task-force comprised of over 200 corporations at launch, which as has “soared to 726“, as of March 28, 2020. This is in addition to the World Economic Forum partnership with the United Nations on June 13, 2019. This is the consolidation of global power, happening in real time.

April 7 2020, CNN: “Grocery stores turn to robots during the coronavirus”:

“Walmart, the country’s largest retailer & private employer, will have Brain Corp’s self-driving robots in 1,860 of its more than 4,700 US stores by the end of the year.”

 

“Workers manually picking, bagging and delivering is costly for grocers, and employees picking orders can clog up aisles.”

 

“Takeoff Technologies… has seen a double-digit increase in orders since the crisis began. “Robots handle a majority of the leg-work when fulfilling orders, meaning there is limited contact with grocery items… The process is “well suited” for social distancing.”

 

“In the retail industry, “margin pressure has made automation a requirement, not a choice,” according to McKinsey. ‘Automation will disproportionately disrupt retail.'”

March 25 2020, CNN: “Robots could help us combat future pandemics. Here’s how experts wish they could help us now”:

“Experts agree that robots could take over the “dull, dirty and dangerous” jobs humans are currently fulfilling.

 

Countries such as China have already deployed robots to assist with certain tasks during the pandemic, like taking people’s temperatures…

 

Robots currently used for other applications could be repurposed to handle dangerous tasks that involve a risk of infection. And the coronavirus pandemic serves as a teachable moment…

 

“Robots have the potential to be deployed for disinfection, delivering medications and food, measuring vital signs, and assisting border controls,” …

 

They can be used to take temperatures of people in public areas or at ports of entry, collect nasal and throat samples for testing, act as telemedicine assistants, handle contaminated waste and even monitor compliance with voluntary quarantines.

 

The editorial also addresses remote operations that allow work and socioeconomic functions to continue. The authors call for robotics that could assist with manufacturing or operating power and waste treatment plants, doing the hands-on work and allowing people to remotely operate them.

 

Remote presence robots could also stand in the place of someone in a meeting, basically providing their presence through a video screen.

 

“COVID-19 may become the tipping point of how future organizations operate,” the researchers wrote. “Rather than cancelling large international exhibitions and conferences, new forms of gathering — virtual rather than in-person attendance — may increase. Virtual attendees may become accustomed to remote engagement via a variety of local robotic avatars and controls.”

 

The pandemic is also highlighting a need for assistance and social robots to help those at home, especially the elderly.

 

Social robots can not only monitor patients and make sure they adhere to treatments, but provide much-needed social interactions as well.”

In addition to the Fourth Industrial Revolution 2020 reset, we have the coming “New Deal For Nature” to be implemented at years  end, or perhaps sooner under the pretext of emergency measures. The feigned concern for climate and biodiversity by those that serve them, is, to be blunt, complete bullshit. There is nothing to be found within the Fourth Industrial Revolution dystopia in regard to nature – other than her financialization and objectification. She too will be placed on the blockchain. Here, man’s arrogance is on full display – with plans to cover the Earth’s surface with artificial forests and drone bees, while cordoning off what they have not yet plundered – for their own personal leisure.

Source: UNLOCKING THE INCLUSIVE GROWTH STORY OF THE 21ST CENTURY: ACCELERATING CLIMATE ACTION IN URGENT TIMES, August, 2018 New Climate Economy c/o World Resources Institute

Source: UNLOCKING THE INCLUSIVE GROWTH STORY OF THE 21ST CENTURY: ACCELERATING CLIMATE ACTION IN URGENT TIMES, August, 2018, New Climate Economy (World Resources Institute)

 

The Fourth Industrial Revolution, the monetization of nature, is being rolled out in lockstep with the deployment of central bank digital currency (CBDC). This is a global transformation of the economic system. Consider nature “valued” at 125 trillion vs. GDP at 85.9 trillion (2018). “Natural Capital” accounting will replace GDP.

 

 

“Coronavirus hysteria provides cover for introducing UBI, a grand theft from the working class…. Notorious fraudster Johann Hari is now touting the UBI scam as an “anti-depressant.”[@cordeliers on Twitter]

April 10, 2020, Newsday: “Pandemic strengthens the case for universal basic income”:

“Subsidizing low-wage work depresses wages by essentially allowing employers to pay less than a livable wage, so EITC-type benefits are at least in part a transfer to employers, rather than workers.”

April 3, 2020, The Wall Street Journal: “Henry Kissinger – The Coronavirus Pandemic Will Forever Alter the World Order”:

“Democracies need to sustain their Enlightenment values. Without balancing power with legitimacy, social contract will disintegrate. Yet the issue of legitimacy can’t be settled at same time as this “plague”….Priorities must be established.”

Nov 15 2016, Socialist Project: “Ontario’s Austerity Government Sets Basic Income Trap”:

“While a progressive Basic Income is not on the cards, its free market evil twin is a real and very dangerous possibility. Under this neoliberal model, an inadequate and dwindling BI payment is provided that absolves low wage employers from the obligation of paying living wages and becomes the only element of social provision left in place. You become a customer shopping in a market place of privatized services. Who could really deny that this right wing version is much closer to presently unfolding reality than the hopes and dreams of left BI enthusiasts?”

Jan 2 2017, Socialist Project: “Basic Income -Progressive Dreams Meet Neoliberal Realities”

“Basic Income, when all is said and done, is a vision for nothing more than the means to be a customer in an unjust society that decides what is for sale.”

 

“It’s really about the commodification of social provision. Your payment may actually be less conditional and somewhat larger but, as you shop through the privatized remains of the social infrastructure, with inadequate means and very few rights, you are dramatically worse off…

 

… it is sometimes asserted that an adequate system of provision must be put in place simply because we are moving toward a “workless future.” In such a society, it is suggested, masses of people who have been displaced will have to be provided for and the capitalists will have to think like Elon Musk, of Tesla Motors and support BI because it is the only sensible and rational solution. To imagine such responsible provision for the future is to place undue faith in a system based on the making of profit. If they won’t stop building pipelines in the face of environmental catastrophe, there’s little reason to expect them to worry too much about sensible solutions to technological displacement. There simply is no post-capitalist capitalism and no social policy innovation that is going to bring it about…

 

I am suggesting that our movements need to challenge, rather than come to terms with, the neoliberal order and the capitalist system that has produced it. For all its claims to be a sweeping measure, the notion of progressive BI is a futile attempt to make peace with that system. In reality, even that compromise is not available. The model of BI that governments are working on in their social policy laboratories will not ‘end the tyranny of the labour market’ but render it more dreadful. The agenda of austerity and privatization requires a system of income support that renders people as powerless and desperate as possible in the face of exploitation and that won’t change if it is relabelled as “Basic Income”.”

When we all start to literally starve (some already have, and many more have been for decades), perhaps then – we will eat the rich.

The question is this? Do you still believe that these people actually give a flying fuck about your health?

The Fourth Industrial Revolution cannot come into fruition without the 5G infrastructure that will run the Internet of Things. “Smart” cities must be understood within the context of global policing and the military industrial complex. Cybersecurity will be the battle space of the twenty-first century.

This is class war.

In closing:

The future, is now on our doorstep: All “human capital” is to be controlled “via digital identity systems tied to cashless benefit payments within the context of a militarized 5G / IoT [Internet of Things]/ AR [augmented reality] environment. The billionaire class has built & is rapidly putting the finishing touches on infrastructure to run human capital social impact markets that will securitize the lives of most people as data streams. The tech that underlies this 4IR automation will hasten the death of the planet. World Economic Forum is advancing a technocratic system of control & domination of humanity & the planet… Why should we agree to this? It is a profound sickness of Western culture. Hubris. Sick. And totally ignoring the impact our actions have on the natural world around us.” – Independent researcher Alison Hawver McDowell, Wrench in the Gears

 

Further reading:

Q: What does Imperial College, the World Economic Forum (WEF), Salesforce, Sinovation Ventures (Chinese technology venture capital), ABB (automation technology), global artificial intelligence (AI), all have in common?

A: Vaccines, emerging markets, gene editing – via the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

https://www.facebook.com/cory.morningstar.5/posts/10163663016445554

Global capital intends to turn our children (& all life) into data commodities. The intent is portfolios of human capital – children as human capital data. All life will be commodified on blockchain, linking behaviour to benefits:

https://www.facebook.com/cory.morningstar.5/posts/10163687281020554

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can support her independent journalism via Patreon.]

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

Nicaragua and the COVID-19 Pandemic

March 29, 2020
By Stephen Sefton
While each country’s experience facing the COVID-19 pandemic is different, some common fundamental factors can make the difference between widespread catastrophe and relative stability. Nicaragua has so far been among the most successful countries in Latin America in protecting its population from the virus while also maintaining normal economic life. As of March 28th, Nicaragua has three confirmed cases with one fatality. Another 14 people who may have the virus are under observation but have so far tested negative.

Brigadistas visit house by house (Photo: Voz del Sandinismo)

 

Nicaragua’s public health system offers free, universal health services based on community focused preventive care. The national network of hospitals, health centres and health posts is supported by a network of tens of thousands of volunteer health promoters called brigadistas. Over the last week, health personnel and brigadistas have visited over 1.2 million households in an education and monitoring campaign to address the pandemic.

Since the country is still in the first phase of the pandemic, the government has prioritized prevention and education. Its borders remain open, as do the country’s schools and public offices. Public events have not been canceled. Business, travel and trade activities continue without restrictions. Ever since January, when the World Health Organization declared a health emergency in relation to the COVID-19 virus, Nicaragua’s government team has coordinated closely with the Panamerican Health Organization, following the relevant protocols for the different phases of the pandemic. Nicaragua’s authorities have promoted an intense education campaign aimed at preventing the spread of the virus. The principal measures the government has stressed during the current first phase of the pandemic in Nicaragua have been the importance of thorough hand washing for at least 20 seconds with soap and water and taking care when sneezing or coughing so as not to infect other people.

Travellers arriving from countries where the virus is active are told to self-isolate for 14 days with follow up from health personnel to check how they are. Other measures frequently promoted every day via radio, television, social networks, posters and printed materials have been: cleaning constantly-used surfaces like desks, phones and computers, work surfaces and toys; keeping a physical distance of at least 1.5 metres when talking with other people; and, most importantly, reporting to the nearest health unit at signs of possible symptoms of the virus. Once the second phase of the pandemic begins, requiring measures of containment, then the government may well ban public events, close schools, enforce social distancing, limit travel and seek to maximize work from home.

Likewise, in any third phase involving potential uncontrolled spread of the virus among the population, more extreme measures may be taken such as the general quarantine already applied in countries like Venezuela or Argentina. The government has prepared the public health system and the National System of Disaster Prevention’s (SINAPRED) civil defence system along with the country’s armed forces for that eventuality. At a regional level, Nicaragua has coordinated closely with the mechanisms of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and the system’s member governments. SICA has produced a regional contingency plan aiming to protect people from the pandemic and treat those affected while maintaining regional economic life and security.


Photo: Jairo Cajina/Canal 4

Nicaragua is one of the few countries in the region with a laboratory of molecular biology approved by the World Health Organization. Its director has said it is the only laboratory in the region that produces the reactive agents for the serological diagnosis of dengue and was the only molecular biology laboratory in Latin America able to diagnose influenza types accurately in 2019. Similarly, Nicaragua has the only public sector plant in Central America producing vaccines. The plant is a joint venture between the Nicaraguan government and the Russian Federation and is preparing to produce the Cuban Interferon Alfa-2-B antiviral medicine for use treating patients with the COVID-19 virus. On March 18th, the “Henry Reeve” Cuban medical brigade arrived in the country, composed of epidemiologists, virologists, intensive care specialists and other expert medical professionals to strengthen Nicaragua’s response to the pandemic. Nicaragua has also participated in regional video conferences facilitated by the Association of Caribbean States, in video conferences with experts from China and has also benefited from the experiences of experts from Taiwan.

For the moment, Nicaragua has been successful preventing the virus from spreading. The authorities have prepared 19 hospitals should the pandemic begin to spread in the general population. 37,206 health workers in both public and private health institutions have been trained in preventive measures, how to identify suspected cases, how to protect fellow health workers, how to provide medical care and how to transfer patients safely between local health units, health centres and hospitals. Similarly, the health ministry has trained 250,000 community health promoters in preventive measures, early identification of patients with symptoms and how to ensure referral of suspected cases to the different health posts, health centres and hospitals.

In Nicaragua, the popular economy of medium, small and micro businesses of all kinds, small farming households and cooperatives across many different industries generate 70% of all employment. The remainder is provided by the public sector along with the private business sector including free trade zone businesses. This economic structure means that a majority of the economically active population depend on daily or weekly income to be able to buy food and other basic items. So for Nicaragua, as for so many other countries impoverished by centuries of rich-country depredation, this makes shutting down the economy practically impossible.

For their part, Nicaragua’s right-wing opposition continue the same relentess disinformation campaigns that they used during their violent, failed coup attempt in 2018, spreading false rumours and scaremongering via their news outlets and social media. At times, this propaganda reaches extreme levels of malevolent hysteria, claiming the government is concealing hundreds of cases of the virus. In interviews, international media uncritically retail the views of inveterate frauds like Confidencial’s Carlos Fernando Chamorro acccusing Nicaragua’s President Ortega of not doing enough to address the pandemic. Opposition propagandists like Chamorro lurch insanely from demented accusations of savage dictatorship to phony complaints of laissez faire negligence.

In Nicaragua, as everywhere else in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the unremitting global class war of elites against the impoverished majority. As in the violent, failed 2018 coup attempt, responses in Nicaragua to the crisis generally reflect that class reality. While the country’s right wing opposition elite and their middle class followers dilute their rum and cokes with tears of self-pity, Nicaragua’s salt-of-the-earth workers and rural farming families are once again pulling the economy through hard times. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government’s so far successful measures against the pandemic, as in Cuba and Venezuela despite vicious US sanctions, confirm the superiority of revolutionary grass roots democracy over the all too apparent failures of Western neoliberal plutocracies.

“Virus or No Virus, We Can’t Lose Our Voice”: Cheri Honkala on Frontline Communities

Black Agenda Report

March 18, 2020

By Ann Garrison

 

“Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism.”

 

“We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future.”

Cheri Honkala has been organizing in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia, one of the US’s most devastated, post-industrial communities, for over 30 years. As of the 2010 census, Kensington was 38.9% Hispanic of any race, 37.4% non-Hispanic white, 14.8% non-Hispanic Black, 6.2% Asian, and 2.7% all other. And it’s beginning to be threatened by gentrification.

Cheri is one of the founders of the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign (PPEHRC), and her work has been so impressive that Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein asked her to be her running mate  in 2008.

I asked her how the coronavirus pandemic is affecting Kensington.

Ann Garrison: Cheri, are you seeing cases of coronavirus there in your neighborhood yet? Does anyone have access to testing?

Cheri Honkala: No, we have no idea if we’ve come into contact with anyone who has the virus yet. There’s no testing, but we’ve most likely been exposed. Most of the poor people in Kensington go to St. Christopher’s Hospital, and a doctor working in the ICU there has tested positive. That will affect Kensington because he saw Kensington patients before testing positive, and because there is, for now, one less doctor working in Kensington.

Public clinics are postponing appointments at the last minute and rescheduling for July due to the virus, but these are services that people need now. We already have bad health. Our health has never much mattered, but there are good, caring doctors and nurses in the system.

“We already have bad health.”

Someone from the public health center said they’re moving to online appointments, but poor people don’t have computers to be talking to their doctors and getting checkups through the phone. We know that people in other parts of the world like Canada and Australia now have access to testing and an equitable response to the virus because they have universal healthcare. But we don’t have that. We seem to be moving further towards the privatization and corporate takeover of all public services and health access. And under the guise of protecting our health, it seems like they’re going to be scooping people up soon, with or without their permission, and putting them who knows where.

AG: Has Philadelphia’s Public Health Department  reached out to you in any way? Have you tried to reach out to them?

CH: No. Philadelphia is one of the poorest large cities in the country. PPEHRC and the Poor People’s Army  have been absolutely overwhelmed both in Philadelphia—where our headquarters is—and throughout the country. We’re assisting people who suddenly have no income and are stuck in their homes for the foreseeable future, if they can hold onto their homes.

We’re helping a woman who’s being released from the hospital to homelessness, a victim of domestic violence needing to get into safe housing, and people needing psychiatric care but not able to get into the hospital. And those are just a few examples of who we’re trying to help. Coronavirus is just an extension of the war that we’ve been forced to fight under capitalism. It’s not just the virus, but that’s made it worse.

The media is fear-mongering, and misinformation is spreading. Corporations, politicians, and poverty pimps are rushing to profit from this moment. Not only have they not reached out to us, but they’re hiding from us because they are either working remotely from home, or they’re operating from the politics of scarcity.

AG: As I write this it’s 49 degrees in Kensington and 49 degrees here in Berkeley, where there are roughly 1,000 homeless people on the street, in a city of roughly 125,000. But it’s still morning out here and it’s well past noon there. It’s not the dead of winter, but it’s not a good day to be homeless in either place, or to live in a house or apartment that doesn’t have heat. It’s not a good day to recover from coronavirus or any kind of cold or flu, especially if you don’t have running water to wash your hands. Do you have any estimate of how many people are facing one or both hardships there in Kensington, a city area of roughly 25,000?

CH: There are about 2000 homeless people on the streets in Philly on any given night. Because of advocacy efforts before the coronavirus, no one’s utilities can be shut off. But that doesn’t mean that utilities that were already shut off can be turned back on.

AG: At the 2016 Green Party Convention in Houston, you shared films about Kensington and said that you thought frontline communities should emulate the Black Panther Party. Could you talk about that here?

CH: For decades, the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign has been teaching people how to reclaim abandoned houses across the country and reclaim land. And to grow food to feed ourselves. We need to move in our organizing work from a reformist model to a revolutionary model. Corporations and the rich are never going to care about us, never going to take care of us, so it’s time we get organized and reclaim our basic economic human rights to food and housing. And whether or not we have health care shouldn’t even be up for negotiations.

AG: Is the PPEHRC supported solely by donations and volunteers?

CH: We are trying to be the US version of the Zapatistas . We are separate from the nonprofit charity model, and are funded by individuals and small foundations. No banks and no corporations.

AG: Are you a 501(c)3?

CH: We have a 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor that accepts tax deductible donations for us.

AG: During the March 15 presidential debate, both candidates said repeatedly that victims of coronavirus must be “made whole” by financial support if they and their families lose work or housing after coming down with coronavirus. And I kept thinking about all the people who have already lost both, those living on the streets or in other desperate circumstances, who haven’t been “made whole.” Suddenly the welfare of all members of society is of concern because even those most marginalized can spread the disease to the upper echelons by going to work, not getting tested, or not seeing a doctor. The New Yorker published a report headlined, “How Much Is the Coronavirus Infecting World Leaders and Disrupting Governments? 

I’m sure you have something further to say about this.

CH: This coronavirus is infecting the upper classes, so they’ll look for ways to protect themselves, but it’s not about protecting us. As a formerly homeless mother I’ve always known that we and our children have never mattered. And I’m very clear that they try to create an us and them scenario–a deserving and undeserving poor. We know the reality is that most people are only a paycheck away from a disaster like the coronavirus. Those of us in frontline communities more than ever need to demand and take back our right to food, clothing, housing, and medical care, because we can’t sit on the sidelines waiting for someone to save us. That’s not gonna happen. We need to link arms and remember that all we have is each other, and we’d better get organized to take housing, to take land, to take back a future for ourselves and our children.

We know they’re going to use this as an opportunity to do more homeless encampment sweeps, enact curfews with the pretense of caring about our health, fast-tracking homeless mothers and their kids into foster care and adoption.

It’s really important right now that we check in on our brothers and sisters who are in prisons, nursing homes, and packed into one-room shelters. We have to advocate for them because authorities are not going to take care of them without pressure.

AG: Tell me what else you’d like to say about coronavirus in poor and homeless communities.

CH: It all comes back to the slogan we’re raising that we need to put #LivesOverLuxury, while they put the elite luxury class over any of us. They’re killing us. That’s why we’re taking this message to both the DNC and RNC, virus or no virus, because we can’t lose our voice, and we fundamentally need a different society to respond to ongoing crises like this that will only escalate.

The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions. Our kids who were attending schools that weren’t good to begin with and are now supposed to attend them online, but many lack access to home computers. People are staying home and not making any money from jobs that are on pause, and they’re waiting for essential health services.

It’s also important that there’s a whole section of people who don’t speak English as their first language, and they’re already being targeted by ICE and state agents. But we’re going to continue to practice the politics of love where we aim for a different kind of society where we take care of each other. At a time when big nonprofits aren’t here, we are continuing to operate with boots on the ground out of necessity. Not that we’re being careless or not taking the virus seriously, but the reality of people’s economic situation is real and that’s what we’re going to be hearing over the days to come. Maybe the utility shutoffs, evictions, and foreclosures are on pause right now, but those bills aren’t going away, and people are losing money every day this goes on.

“The coronavirus has exacerbated class divisions.”

We encourage people to join the Poor People’s Army. We need to make sure we keep our eyes wide open, and keep the propaganda on TV from separating us, isolating us, and disempowering us. Join us at livesoverluxury.com  and plan on coming to the Democratic Convention in July.

On July 13th, at 4 p.m., we will be in Milwaukee to demand our share of the 67 cents of every single dollar that goes to feed the war machine and deny poor and working class people their right to health care, food, housing, and dignity.

We have nothing to lose because we are already on the frontlines, already sentenced to death by gun violence, economic violence, cuts in food stamps and public housing, and, for many outside this country, sanctions. Our government, both Democrats and Republicans, chooses war and corporate profits over ending poverty and homelessness. We see the abundance in our country, and the #PoorPeoplesArmy is organizing to take it back by practicing the politics of love. Coronavirus or not, we are moving forward in an army led by the poor. Capitalism has buried our loved ones for years. It’s time we bury it.

AG: What if the convention’s canceled, as seems likely right now?

CH: Eventually there will be a convention and an election. People can follow us on Facebook  or our website  for any sudden changes.

AG: OK. I want to close by sharing links to videos about your work in Kensington and beyond that you showed at the Green Party Convention in 2016. Readers can watch them here: The Philadelphia Story  and Homeless Hero .

Thank you, Cheri, for sharing everything you’ve said here, and for everything you do.

CH: Thank you too.

 

[Ann Garrison is an independent journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2014, she received the Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza Democracy and Peace Prize for her reporting on conflict in the African Great Lakes region. She can be reached at ann@anngarrison.com.]

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