Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part Three: Critique of the Lack of Reference to the Class of Employers and to the Health Implications of Living Under Their Dominance

Introduction

This is the continuation of a four-part series of posts. For the context of where the following fits into my participation and withdrawal from the organization Social Housing Green Deal, see the first part Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police.

Christoph Henning’s words (2005) express the nature of some so-called leftist social organizations in Toronto, such as Social Housing Green Deal.  From Philosophy after Marx: 100 Years of Misreadings and the Normative Turn in Political Philosophy, page 77:

We will see that Marxian theory, whose import was already lost in the developments discussed above, not only continued to be given a new thematic framework, but also displayed a ‘changing function’. A mode of thinking that operates within complex and dynamic socio-economic structures of development was replaced by a simplified rationale of domination. In functional terms, this led to a transformation of theory. Theory went from being a critical companion of politics to being an instrument by which to ideologically affirm a political voluntarism that was practised in a largely unreflected manner.

Before the May 2 Social Housing Green Deal zoom meeting I had drafted a critical analysis of two motioned items that were on the agenda. The first motion I discussed in the second post. This post is about the other motion. I sent my critical comments to Ms. Jessup, moderator and administrator, for the group. The motion was to support the statement by the grassroots organization “Suppress the Virus Now Coalition.”

The first motion, as I indicated in my previous post, was more or less rubber-stamped. I had the impression that Ms. Jessup wanted the motion by the Suppress the Virus Now Coalition also to be rubber-stamped. However, I, Ms. Jessup and another zoom member had to leave soon.

I managed to have the motion tabled until the next meeting. That meeting was postponed, however, until May 23. I will describe why I did not attend that meeting in the final post of this series.

Second Critique: The Motion to Support the Statement Made By Suppress the Virus Now Coalition

This is what I wrote: 

There is a controversial claim in this statement.

“ANY PANDEMIC STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH IS RACIST, ANTI-BLACK, ANTI-INDIGENOUS, SEXIST, ABLEIST, AGEIST, AND UNACCEPTABLE.”

Acquiescence to avoidable sickness has been the rule, not the exception. This does not mean that there have not been struggles over health and safety in the workplace. There have been constant struggles, but currently the unionized sector of the labour movement has often rested content with rhetoric than dealing with the reality of just how unsafe working conditions were even before the pandemic.

Thus, in a recent nod to the number of injured and dead workers in Canada, the Toronto Airport Workers Council (TAWC, an organization “committed to speaking up for workers at YYZ [Toronto Pearson Airport], TAWC posted the following on its Facebook page on April 28—the Canadian national day of mourning for workers killed on the job: “Photos of the GTAA Administration building of the flags lowered at half-mast as a mark of respect on this National day of mourning.”

My response: “It would be more relevant if all measures to eliminate processes and procedures that treat workers as means for the benefit of employers were instituted–in other words, the elimination of a society organized on the basis of the class power of employers. How many workers have been injured and died at Pearson because of the pursuit of profit?

Flying a flag at half-mast is hardly a symbol of respect if all measures to eliminate dangerous working conditions are not pursued. Have such dangerous working conditions been eliminated at Pearson?”

There were 2 likes and 0 comments.

I had another “debate” on TAWC over the issue of health and safety at Pearson earlier, but I will spare the reader any further references unless someone wants to read it.

Some Canadian statistics before the pandemic (from my blog):

Official statistics:

  1. “More than 1000 employees die every year in Canada on the job, and about 630,000 are injured every year (Bob Barnetson, 2010, The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada. Edmonton: Athabasca University Press, p. 2). The same year as the publication of that work saw 554 homicides (Tina Mahonny, 2011, Homicide in Canada, 2010. Ottawa: Statistics Canada, p. 1) —the number of employee deaths at work under the power of employers was around double the number of murders.”

    Non-official statistics:

  2. Steven Bittle, Ashley Chen and Jasmine Hébert report a much higher figure in their article (Fall 2018), ““Work-Related Deaths in Canada,”, pages 159-187, in Labour/Le Travail, Volume 82, page 186:

“Relying on a range of data sources, and adopting a broad definition of what constitutes a work-related fatality, we generated a revised estimate of the number of annual work-related fatalities. Based on our analysis, we estimate that the number of annual work-related fatalities in Canada is at least ten to thirteen times higher than the approximately 900 to 1,000 annual average fatalities reported by the AWBC [The Canadian Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada]. This makes work-related fatalities one of the leading causes of death in this country.”

Has there really been any social movement to address this carnage? Not that I am aware of. Resignation to sickness, injury and death at work (and outside work due to preventable diseases such as cancer) is part of parcel of Canadian culture (and many other national cultures). To then call it racist, etc seems to be an inadequate characterization of the situation of many workers in Canada. There may indeed be higher differentials of injury, disease and death among coloured workers, etc. (which requires more detailed data), but the general nature of the problem is not racist, etc but economic: workers, whatever their colour, gender, etc., are subject to the control of a class of workers, and there is no real and effective political organization that questions such control and aims to abolish the conditions that make it eminently reasonable (from an employer’s point of view) to engage in actions that injury, make sick or kill workers.

From Bob Barnetson, The Political Economy of Workplace Injury in Canada, page 2):

“Perspectives on workplace injury

How you react to the vast number of workers injured and killed each year reflects your values and beliefs. Are these injures inevitable? Are they just the cost of doing business? One way to look at workplace injuries is from an economic perspective. This view sees the risk of injury as minimal, unavoidable and, ultimately, acceptable. Is it the price we (or at least workers) must pay for a “healthy” economy? If we are going to lower the risk of injury, we need to ensure the cost is less than the benefit we’ll receive. And the people best positioned to decide that are employers.

This economic perspective dominates the debate about workplace health and safety. It is the lingua franca of employers, bureaucrats, politicians, and most academics. There are, of course, alternative perspectives. An alternative advanced by workers views workplace injuries as the result of choices employers make in order to maximize profitability. Contrary to the slogan “safety pays,” it is usually cheaper for employers to organize work unsafely. This is especially true if employers can (with the tacit consent of government) pass along the cost of occupational injuries and disease to workers.”

The kind of social process called working for an employer (being an employee) that characterizes our working lives is a threat to our health in various ways, Logically, if we take seriously the claim that “ANY [PANDEMIC[ STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH,” should be opposed, then we should be fighting to create an organization and a movement that fights against a social organization dominated by a class of employers (and the associated economic, political and social structures) and for a socialist society that eliminates class relations—period. Otherwise, any other strategy simply “resigns itself to avoidable sickness and death”–regardless of the pandemic, and regardless of its differentiated impact on race, gender and so forth. In fact, what has happened during the pandemic merely highlights the continuity with past practice—and the acquiescence of those who have failed to oppose a society dominated by a class of employers.

Just as an aside. The list of demands: how effective are they really? Are there any priorities? Are there some that need to be implemented right away? Or are all on the same level? If on different levels, should they not have been organized in some fashion to reflect the level of priorities? And not only priorities but power to achieve each demand? What organizations and supports currently exist that are more relevant for achieving each specific demand? Or all all organizations and supports on the same level?

End of my commentary

The “Suppress the Virus Now Coalition” also wrote the following: 

The Suppress The Virus Now Coalition is a network of community groups, labour groups, and individuals in Ontario. We have come together out of a shared concern about the Ontario provincial and Canadian federal governments’ approach to the COVID-19 crisis since the pandemic hit in March 2020. Now, as the second wave drags on, we demand that those governments stop prioritizing corporate profits over the health and well-being of our communities. We refuse to endorse any approach that accepts the needless death of elderly people and those living and working in long-term care; of disabled, chronically ill, and immunocompromised loved ones; of Indigenous Peoples in Ontario and across the country; of the Black, migrant, and racialized communities who have borne the brunt of COVID-19 infections in the GTA; of underhoused, precariously housed, and houseless neighbours; of incarcerated and formerly incarcerated community members; and of the health-care and other essential workers who are on the front lines.

ANY PANDEMIC STRATEGY THAT RESIGNS ITSELF TO AVOIDABLE SICKNESS AND DEATH IS RACIST, ANTI-BLACK, ANTI-INDIGENOUS, SEXIST, ABLEIST, AGEIST, AND UNACCEPTABLE. IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE #COVIDzero CAMPAIGN LAUNCHED BY HEALTH-CARE WORKERS, WE DEMAND THAT OUR ELECTED OFFICIALS EXPLICITLY ADOPT THE HUMANE GOAL OF ELIMINATING COMMUNITY SPREAD OF COVID-19.

Policing, threats, and rhetoric that blames individuals for systemic failures and conditions outside of their control are neither effective nor ethical tactics to deal with this pandemic. Instead, we must turn to principles of solidarity and community care, and toward robust, expansive, and inclusive social supports so that we can all make it through this crisis. Social and economic inequalities have been exacerbated by the pandemic, but rather than returning to a “normal” where a select few lives are privileged over others, we must build the conditions for all to live and thrive. This rebuilding must centre the needs of those most impacted by the pandemic and by the ongoing violence of the Canadian state.

We call for a just, equitable #COVIDzero approach that includes (but is not limited to): 

  • At least seven employer-paid sick days for all workers on a permanent basis, plus an additional 14 paid sick days during public health emergencies.

  • Adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for all workers, including respirator masks (e.g. N95s, FFP2s) for all workers in indoor workplaces until COVID community transmission ends, now that we know the virus can remain airborne indoors for hours.

  • The right of all workers to refuse work due to unsafe workplace conditions, and to be eligible for income supports like the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) after such work refusals.

  • Expanded eligibility for pandemic-related state assistance such as the CRB, including for temporary migrant workers, undocumented people, gig economy workers, sex workers, and others.

  • An immediate ban on evictions; rent cancellation and forgiveness of arrears; a moratorium on encampment policing; and safe, accessible winter housing for unhoused people who want it.

  • An immediate end to the criminalization, racial profiling, and raids that harm migrant and non-migrant sex workers, including anti-trafficking initiatives and repressive bylaws affecting sex workers and workers in massage parlours.

  • Safe and accessible options for isolation when home isolation is not an option, and transparent communication about options that are already in existence.

  • Immediate investment to improve ventilation, reduce class sizes, and offer COVID testing to students and education workers; and robust assistance for students, educators, caregivers, and families when school closures are necessary, like now.

  • Redistributing 50% of all police budgets toward resourcing social and health supports in Black, Indigenous, and people of colour communities.

  • An immediate end to deportations, and regularization and full immigration status now for all migrants, refugees, international students, workers (including temporary or seasonal migrants), and undocumented people in the country.

  • Immediate federal support and funding for clean water access, appropriate health care, and COVID supports for all Indigenous people on and off reserve, and the recognition of Indigenous sovereignty across the country, including heeding demands to immediately classify oil, mineral, and gas extraction as non-essential work, and to hit pause on extraction, exploration, and environmental assessment processes.

  • Immediate decarceration of people from provincial, federal, and immigration detention facilities, and simultaneous access to sanitation and protective equipment, harm reduction supplies, free communication resources, and appropriate and consensual post-incarceration support for all incarcerated people.

  • Permanently increasing Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) rates to match CERB ($2,000/month).

  • Making temporary, uneven pandemic pay boosts permanent by raising the minimum wage for all.

  • Taking profit out of long-term care, replacing for-profit corporations with an entirely non-profit and public system. Enforcing national standards that ensure that long-term care workers – who are disproportionately racialized women – have a living wage, health and wellness benefits, and a safe and secure job, in order to provide high-quality care to residents.

  • Making public transit safe by halting fare inspection, investing in mask distribution, and putting more buses on high-traffic routes to allow for physical distancing.

  • Increasing research and supports dedicated to COVID “long-haulers,” people still suffering from the effects of the virus months after infection.

  • Greater involvement of community groups in public health decision-making, respecting communities’ knowledge about their own life circumstances, and more consistently inviting their representatives into decision-making processes led by researchers and civic officials.

As the pandemic puts our society’s racial and class divides on ruthless display, it is urgent that we all show up with our neighbours to demand a just, equitable pathway to #COVIDzero that leaves no one behind.

To add your name (individual and/or organization) to this statement, and/or to get involved with the coalition’s work, please complete this short form.

We are an Ontario-based group, but the need for a just, equitable #COVIDzero strategy transcends local boundaries. We invite collaboration with people struggling towards the same goal elsewhere. We also encourage groups outside Ontario to adopt and adapt this statement freely for your own purposes.

In Ontario, here are some ways you can plug into powerful community organizing and take action:

  • Follow, boost, and contribute to groups like the Encampment Support Network, People’s Defence Toronto, and Keep Your Rent Toronto that are fighting for housing justice.

  • Volunteer with and donate to Toronto Indigenous Harm Reduction, providing encampment support and working to mitigate the harms of the catastrophic overdose crisis.

  • Join the Migrant Rights Network to demand justice, safety, and #StatusForAll migrants.

  • Support the labour organizing of the Workers Action Centre and the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change to ensure that no one is left behind.

  • Take action with 15 & Fairness and the Decent Work and Health Network to demand paid sick days for all.

  • Learn more about the work of COVID Long Haulers Support Group Canada, a large grassroots organization of COVID survivors experiencing debilitating effects months after infection, and sign the support group’s petition demanding recognition, research, and rehabilitation for Long COVID sufferers.

  • Get involved with the Toronto Prisoners Rights Project to fight for justice for incarcerated and formerly incarcerated people, and take action to demand decarceration.

  • Demand better for residents and workers in long-term care, by following the work of the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Canadian Union of Public Employees, and Unifor, and contributing to their calls to action.

  • Follow and boost Green Jobs Oshawa’s campaign for domestic PPE production, crucial long-term healthcare organizing by the Ontario Health Coalition and the Ontario Council of Hospital Unions, and the campaign to #MakeReveraPublic.

  • Write to elected officials to express your support for the demands of the Wet’suwet’en Chiefs who are calling for a stop to resource extraction projects as COVID-19 outbreaks recur in B.C. work camps.

  • Protect public sector jobs and collective bargaining with the Toronto & York Region Labour Council by adding your voice to their Forward Together campaign.

  • Join TTC Riders to demand adequate funding for safe and physically distanced public transit options.

  • Call the Minister of Children, Community, and Social Services to demand increased social assistance rates.

  • Demand that the Ontario legislature adopt an intersectional gender equity approach to its pandemic response

Conclusion

My general criticism on this blog has been and will continue to be that the so-called radical left fail to connect up a general criticism of a society dominated by a class of employers–with the associated oppressive and exploitative economic, political and social structures–and particular issues. The organization Suppress the Virus Now Coalition failed to do just that.

The pandemic should have been an occasion to develop a movement against the systemic nature of capitalist society. There has really been no such movement–in part undoubtedly because grass-roots social movements fail to link the particular issues surrounding the pandemic with the general issue of the impossibility of maximizing the health of workers, citizens, immigrants and migrant workers in the context of a society dominated by a class of employers.

My comments and criticisms were never addressed. My criticisms, in effect, were censored. I leave it to the reader to decide whether such censorship expresses the democratic nature of some (if not many) grassroots organizations–or if it expresses something else. 

The last post of this series will include further comments and questions about “The People’s Pandemic Shutdown.” 

Working and Living in a Society Dominated by a Class of Employers May Be Dangerous to Your Health

In some previous posts, the title was “Working for an Employer May Be Dangerous to Your Health.” I have changed the title since this post is not just directly about working for an employer.

As has been implied in the previous post on this topic, the shift to legislative measures to address health and safety concerns removed workers’ definition of problems of health and safety in relation to social causes and transformed the definition into a technical issue over health and safety.

This shift in turn involved a shift from concerns for legislation to concerns for administrative measures. This shift to administrative measures protects employers better by limiting democratic pressure by means of legislative processes. Of course, such legislative processes should not be idealized. They, too, are subject to pressures of various kinds, such as economic pressures, political (power) pressures and ideological pressures.

Legislative and Administrative Processes as Inadequate to Protect Workers

As a result, legislative measures to protect workers from dangers at work often end up being watered down–as I pointed out in another post:

However, peeling back the veneer of the federal government’s so-called crackdown on violent crime reveals a much different story. To start, it took more than ten years to introduce a new law in response to a single and violent mass killing in which twenty-six Canadians died. What is more, despite widespread political support, many politicians – particularly those with an affinity for law-and-order policies – cautioned against going too far in terms of holding offenders criminally responsible for their harmful acts (Bittle and Snider 2006).

The implicit attitude of many legislators and administrators–that deaths at work are simply unintended and inevitable facts of the world that cannot be changed–points to the inadequacy of legislative and administrative measures for protecting life and limb of workers. From Steven Bittle, doctoral dissertation, Still Dying for a Living: Shaping Corporate Criminal Liability After the Westray Mine Disaster, pages 88-89:

… we argued that conservative conceptualizations of corporate crime dominated the process leading to the enactment of the Westray bill, thereby limiting the reform options that were given serious consideration. Three main arguments supported the analysis. First, legislators emphasized the importance of traditional legal language–particularly the doctrine of mens rea, or the legal need to establish the guilty mind of an individual – which downplayed alternative approaches to combating corporate criminal liability (also see Wells 1993: 1). Second, neo-liberal discourses helped ensure that the legislative framework conceptualized workplace safety as a shared responsibility amongst workers, managers and employers, despite the fact that few employees, namely those who carry out day-to-day production processes, have control over their working conditions (even though they bear the costs of unsafe working environments). Third, dominant conceptualizations of corporate capitalism, the idea that corporations are vital for the effective functioning of the Canadian economy, helped protect against the enactment of overly stringent legislation. Overall, given the convergence of various conservative discourses that dominated the reform process, we questioned the ability of the Westray bill to hold corporations to account for their harmful actions.

Why is it that the social-democratic left and unions do not discuss openly and thoroughly the issue of the systemic inadequacy of legislative and administrative efforts to protect workers? There is a definite need to enter into debate over such an issue, but there is an equally definite lack of discussion of such an issue. The current pandemic should have been an occasion to reassess the whole issue of the health and safety of workers–and indeed of the general population–in the context of a society dominated by a class of workers.

There has not been much real discussion about the need to overcome the power of the class of employers if we are to address adequately the health and safety of workers and the general population.

Indeed, the Trump’s administration’s efforts to downplay the tragedy of the pandemic has antecedents in the downplaying of the real cost of life, health and limb of workers and the general population in the context of a society dominated by a class of employers.

Reported Statistics on Health and Safety Versus the Probable Real Situation of Workers and the General Population

In a previous post, I indicated that official statistics show that around 1,000 workers die at work yearly when compared to around 550 murders years (see The Issue of Health and Safety in the Workplace Dominated by a Class of Employers). Official statistics are, however, just that, official. They are produced through administrative processes that define what constitutes an “official death.” By contrast, there have been estimates that express a much larger number of deaths in Canada due to work-related incidents. Thus, Steven Bittle, Ashley Chen and Jasmine Hébert report a much higher figure in their article (Fall 2018), ““Work-Related Deaths in Canada,”, pages 159-187, in Labour/Le Travail, Volume 82, page 186:

Relying on a range of data sources, and adopting a broad definition of what constitutes a work-related fatality, we generated a revised estimate of the number of annual work-related fatalities. Based on our analysis, we estimate that the number of annual work-related fatalities in Canada is at least ten to thirteen times higher than the approximately 900 to 1,000 annual average fatalities reported by the AWBC [The Canadian Association of Workers’ Compensation Boards of Canada]. This makes work-related fatalities one of the leading causes of death in this country

Undoubtedly the 554 murders reported in Canada are also an underestimate–probably due to racist and sexist attitudes and organizations (the underreporting of, for example, murdered Aboriginal women). However, it is highly unlikely that the number of unreported murders even approaches half the number of estimated work-related deaths.

The authors provide the following table to substantiate their claims (slightly modified to accommodate the formatting of this post), page 169:

Work-related cause of deathEstimated fatalitiesEstimated fatalities
Injury fatalitiesOccupational-disease fatalities
AWCB’s average from 2014–16 (see note a below)332
Commuting/Driving to and from work466
Agricultural64
Non-reporting/reporting errors20
Non-working victims90 (see note b below)
Work-related suicides400–789
Mesothelioma485
Other cancers5,959–8,939
copd (see note c below)2,062
Estimated injury total972
Estimated disease total8,906–12,275
ESTIMATED TOTAL: 9,878–13,246

Note a: The AWCB’s statistics include only deaths from a traumatic incident or “accident.” We exclude occupational diseases and cancers to avoid duplication with our revised numbers concerning these fatalities.
Note b: This figure is based on TSB (Transportation Safety Board of Canada) information and is thus a conservative estimate. There are a significant number of unknown cases that could also be included in this category.
Note c: copd (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) refers to progressive and incurable lung diseases, including emphysema, chronic bronchitis, and refractory asthma.

Given the threat to their health of many workers and citizens, there should be persistent discussions of how legislation (and administration procedures) fail to protect workers–systematically, and not accidentally–in the context of a society dominated by a class of employers.

Accidents there will always be–but it is necessary to create a society that minimizes the probability of such accidents. Where is the movement or organization that is consciously aiming to abolish this carnage?

Is there fear among the social-democratic left and union reps to do so? What else would explain such silence over an issue that is of vital concern for workers? Union reps and the social-democratic left may complain about such facts and try to reduce the number of deaths, but unless the root cause of such deaths–the lack of control by workers and citizens over their own lives–is addressed, all complaints and proposed solutions will be measures that may reduce but not eliminate unnecessary deaths.

I have quoted this before, but it is often appropriate when addressing the inadequacies of social-democratic deficiencies. From Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Volume 1: The Process of Production of Capital (page 91):

Perseus wore a magic cap so that the monsters he hunted down might not see him. We draw the magic cap down over our own eyes and ears so as to deny that there are any monsters.

The Monster Pandemic

The monster called the COVID-19 pandemic still exists, but there is little direct questioning of the kind of society that permits millions to die–while the stock market rises.

For example, it is implied that there is a crisis in Ontario health care, especially in long-term care homes, due to the Covid pandemic in a post on the Socialist Project’s website on January 8 (see https://socialistproject.ca/2021/01/covid19-crisis-situation-ontario/). The title of the post is “COVID-19 Crisis Situation In Ontario: Deadliest Day of the Pandemic,” produced by the Ontario Health Coalition. It is divided into four sections: a short introduction, a section titled “Hospitals,” another titled “Long-Term Care,” and a final section titled “Stronger Public Health Measures Needed Now.”

The introduction points out that January 7, 2021 constituted the highest number of deaths in Ontario (a province in Canada) since the pandemic became official. It argues that stronger measures are required and greater supports are required for the most vulnerable. In other words, it outlines some of the problems and offers some solutions.

The sections on hospitals and long-term care outline the dire situation of hospitals and long-term care homes–such as hospitals filled to capacity, morgues in some cities full, a dramatic rise in the number of deaths in long-term care homes.

The final section outlines some immediate solutions:

  1. “stronger safety and infection control measures in open businesses, full public reporting of outbreaks, more effective and coherent shutdowns.”
  2. “individuals whose employment has been or will be impacted need full support for income and housing, and local businesses need full supports to survive the pandemic.”
  3. “Our government can do a much better job of providing coordination and supports for these protections.” Including:
  • “Stronger, more coherent public health measures, including a fast ramp up of testing, contact tracing and quarantine capacity in public health and labs must be undertaken now so that the province can get the spread of the virus under control.
  • There must be fewer contacts among people to reduce community and workplace transmission and stronger public health measures across the board, including shutdowns and stronger safety measures in open businesses, must be undertaken.
  • The crisis in staffing capacity in long-term care must be addressed without any further delay.
  • The vaccine roll-out needs to be coherent, competent and much faster.
  • Community care, which is taking more of the burden of COVID-19 cases as hospitals are full, must be provided with clear directives to ensure staff have proper PPE including N95 masks.”

Given the emergency situation, certainly the identification of such immediate problems and proposed solutions to such problems is warranted. They are necessary and urgent. We need, as the post does, guidelines about what needs to be done immediately to address the inadequate responses by the Doug Ford government to the crisis in health care in the context of the pandemic.

However, this short-term could at least have been linked to both the specification of the longer-term problems that led to the pandemic and to longer-term goals that address the problem of overcoming economic, political and social structures that treat human beings as expendable costs in the production and exchange of commodities or as costs in long-term home care.

Some of the longer-term conditions for the emergence of Covid-19 are outlined by Mike Davis in his work (2020) The Monster Enters: COVID-19, Avian Flu and the Plagues of Capitalism:

But this time around there was little mystery about the identity of the microbe—SARS-CoV-2 was sequenced almost overnight in January—or the steps necessary to fight it. Since the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983 and the recognition that it had jumped from apes to humans, science has been on high alert against the appearance of deadly new diseases with pandemic potential that have crossed over from wild fauna. This new age of plagues, like previous pandemic epochs, is directly the result of economic globalization. … Today, as was the case when I wrote Monster fifteen years ago, multinational capital has been the driver of disease evolution through the burning or logging out of tropical forests, the proliferation of factory farming, the explosive growth of slums and concomitantly of “informal employment,” and the failure of the pharmaceutical industry to find profit in mass producing lifeline antivirals, new-generation antibiotics, and universal vaccines.

Forest destruction, whether by multinationals or desperate subsistence farmers, eliminates the barrier between human populations and the reclusive wild viruses endemic to birds, bats, and mammals. Factory farms and giant feedlots act as huge incubators of novel viruses while appalling sanitary conditions in slums produce populations that are both densely packed and immune compromised. The inability of global capitalism to create jobs in the so-called “developing world” means that a billion or more subsistence workers (the “informal proletariat”) lack an employer link to healthcare or the income to purchase treatment from the private sector, leaving them dependent upon collapsing public hospitals systems, if they even exist. Permanent bio-protection against new plagues, accordingly, would require more than vaccines. It would need the suppression of these
“structures of disease emergence” through revolutionary reforms in agriculture and urban living that no large capitalist or state-capitalist country would ever willingly undertake.

Does the Ontario Health Coalition look at not only the immediate threat and its solutions but also the wider social context? The indirect criticism of neoliberal cuts in health care are implied: “The crisis in staffing capacity in long-term care must be addressed without any further delay.” The longer-term problems associated with the kind of society that is dominated by a class of employers is shuffled off into outer space, where it will be addressed who knows when or how.

Surely, the issue of health and safety in a society dominated by a class of employers should be a center-point for discussion and what can be done about it. Short-term problems and appropriate measures to be taken do indeed need to be discussed, but this pandemic is no longer something a few weeks or months old. We are now in 2021. Why are not the longer-term problems associated with an economic, political and social structure that has not only fostered conditions for the emergence of deadly viruses and their spread not discussed? Why are there not deep discussions about possible solutions to this large-scale problem?

The Ontario Health Coalition, in its article, instead of providing such a discussion and a vision of how we can prevent this situation from ever happening again, mainly focuses on immediate problems. These are indeed necessary–but they are hardly sufficient.

One last point. The Ontario Health Coalition is just that, a coalition. The interests of the working class do indeed require entering into coalitions, but first workers need to create their own independent position so that their interests are not absorbed into high-sounding phrases that lead nowhere. For example, this is what we find on the Ontario Health Coalition website in its section on “About Us” ( https://www.ontariohealthcoalition.ca/index.php/about-us/mission-mandate/):

Our primary goal is to protect and improve our public health care system. We work to honour and strengthen the principles of the Canada Health Act. We are led by our shared commitment to core values of equality, democracy, social inclusion and social justice; and by the five principles of the Act: universality; comprehensiveness; portability; accessibility and public administration. We are a non-profit, non-partisan public interest activist coalition and network.

What is meant by “equality, democracy and social justice?” Can such goals ever be achieved in a society dominated by a society characterized by the dominance of a class of employers? How is that possible, given that workers are means to be used by employers and costs to the employers (see The Money Circuit of Capital)? Is it possible where workers are dictated to by management as the representative of employers in various ways (see, for example, Management Rights, Part One: Private Sector Collective Agreement, British Columbia and, more generally, Employers as Dictators, Part One)?

We do not need rhetoric. We need an accurate assessment of what threatens us in the world and what we can do about it.

Or do we deserve less than this?