Like during any crisis, when hit by an epidemic the society is forced to choose its direction where to go. Do we tighten control or do we try to overcome the crisis by building a more sustainable society based on responsibility and solidarity? To us antifascists, feminists and anticapitalists the answer is clear: sharing the burden of the Corona virus evenly is the only sustainable way to push back against the epidemic on all levels of society, and mutual aid is a key part to efficiently mitigate epidemic. This is why we have collected five theses about the social and political nature of the epidemic and about initiatives, which could take us beyond the crisis towards a free, equal and ecologic society founded on solidarity, as opposed to just new series of financial and health crises and states of emergency.
Free municipal healthcare, including medicine, hygiene products and mental health services, must be secured for all who are living in Finland, regardless of nationality. The Corona virus pandemic affects people around the world, and in addition to local social differences, the differences in how we react to it is also reflecting global inequality. This is why solidarity must extend beyond national borders by offering expertise and aid to other countries, where they are needed. Research information, patents, possible vaccines and medicine must be distributed without cost to regions with weaker healthcare infrastructure.
Those who work in the health sector, especially in nursing, must be paid according to the importance and value of their work. The epidemic must not serve as an excuse to downplay the demands nurses have been expressing since early spring to improve their pay and working conditions, with the support of the majority of Finns. On the contrary, the professionals who now work under exceptional pressure, stress and lack of workforce deserve a raise in their normal pay and generous bonuses for their additional work in an emergency situation.
Livelihood for everyone living in Finland must be secured at all times. Crisis funds must be used to support the people and the functions that benefit society – not to resuscitate big business, insurance companies and banks. The entire civil society must be organized keeping in mind, that we shall not allow such massive transfer of income from the poor to the rich that happenened after the 2008 financial crisis to happen again.
We must struggle for a salary and working conditions that correspond to the importance of their work for those in socially necessary professions, those working under the requirement to work and those who fight against the Corona virus in sectors such as nursing, childcare, education and elderly care. Many keep on working due to financial insecurity even though they might have contracted the virus or are otherwise feeling sick. The livelihood for freelancers, zero-hour contract workers, workers temporarily laid off, the unemployed and the self-employed must also be secured and all domestic loans must be frozen.
One practical solution could be an unconditional abd universal basic income, which would also lessen the bureaucratic burdens of the current social security. Housing, electricity, water and other fundamental necessities of life must be offered cost free and it must be ensured, that homeless people and those otherwise in a vulnerable position survive the emergency and that no one is evicted as a consequence of the crisis.
All kinds of reproductive work, such as nursing, carework and emotional work, is mostly done by women and the non-binary in our society. This makes those sectors of our society that are most vulnerable to contagion mostly female. This must be fixed: the importance and value of carework and other reproductive labour must be recognized, regardless of whether the work is paid labour or not. This requires men to take an equal role and responsibility in these tasks. If institutional daycare and schools are being taken down, we must create alternative ways to offer these services, so that the only way to deal with this is not the patriarchal nuclear family, where women are traditionally left stuck between the stove, the kids, the laundry machine and now also the corona virus. In this regard we must take into accordance the differences in social positions among women in social class and race.
The requirement of equal distribution of carework and other reproductive labour must reach all aspects of social life. All distribution of work and assignments of tasks have to take into accord the gender perspective so that women are not put into a position where they face a greater risk of infection, increased control or work responsibilities, or less pay.
The violence by men against women is also increasing in times like this and in households with substance abuse the isolation from the outside world can result in unbearable situation and a threat to life and health. We must expand the operation of womens’ safe houses even under an epidemic and we must offer aid and resources for them as well as for crisis helplines.
In everything we do during the crisis, environmental impacts must be evaluated. The crisis which followed the Corona virus has to be solved in a way which improves our living conditions instead of destroying them. This must be taken into account especially in economics: corporations which harm the environment shall not even be tried to be rescued, and the help packages and crisis aid must be allocated to production that is ecologically and socially sustainable. For example flight traffic should not be returned to the level before the outbreak of Corona virus.
All the control measures and restrictions that have been put into place under the state of emergency must be withdrawn immediately as they are no longer justified by the Corona virus. We must fight against these restrictions becoming a new normal. The free movement of people must be secured and the refugee question must be resolved in a way that respects human dignity. For example the refugee camps of Greece, where even basic hygiene can not be provided for thousands of people, must be evacuated and dissolved and its habitants must be brought within the normal healthcare and housing. If the 40.000 people in the Greek refugee camps were distributed evenly among the members of the European Union, the share of any individual country would be minuscule.
The crisis shall not be used to limit democracy and freedom. On the contrary, we must start to create democratic self-governance at all levels of society, including our workplaces. Local and self-governing structures increase the flexibility and resilience of the society and its ability to survive the Corona virus epidemic and its potential follow-up crises. Local democratic structures must be created to support the crisis management as opposed to just state of emergency laws, because local communities have much better understanding of the real needs and problems of the people than the state. Decentralised self-management ensures faster and more flexible decision-making and better capability to react to the material needs of the people.
Every one of these theses is an open invitation to develop our analysis of the political and social nature of the epidemic even further. They are also an invitation to organize among these lines and ideas, and to nurture and develop them. Health, economy, womens’ rights, ecology and expansion of freedom and democratic self-management are fields of organizing and struggling for our values, our society and for our life. These theses don’t present a goal but a position from which to go forward and open new horizonts. How our society will look like after the epidemic and the opening up of quarantines and borders depends on our ability to organize ourselves to build our future in lines of freedom and equality. We can and even should demand a lot, but our own future we have to build ourselves, with our own effort, together and supporting each other.
Varis is autonomous anti-fascist network from Finland.
[this text is also published in Finnish and a Swedish translation is on its way]