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DSA Richmond on the COVID-19 Crisis

By: author
Posted: March 25, 2020

In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, DSA Richmond would like to remind everyone to be safe by practicing social distancing and stricter personal hygiene measures. We have all been caught unprepared by this outbreak, and the structure of our society – capitalism – has exacerbated it. We can build the alternative to capitalism now – socialism, a democratic and participatory society in which working people control the wealth they produce. Only a society oriented toward human freedom and well-being, not the profit for a few, can manage a crisis of the scale that we face.

The COVID-19 Pandemic is a Failure of Capitalism

Why is it that, when we have more than enough resources and wealth to take care of everyone’s essential needs, so many suffer with little while a small minority has many times more than they need? How could the wealthiest country in the world be unprepared for a pandemic? The reason is capitalism. In the US, access to nearly every human need (housing, healthcare, education, food) is structured by “the market.” Don’t have money saved to buy food during this crisis? Too bad. Want to seek government assistance with getting food? You’re better off seeing if there are local food pantries. Indeed, a patchwork of private, charity-style organizations are all that stands between many of us and dire poverty.

Meanwhile, shocks like natural disasters, social unrest, and even public health crises have the potential to be used to undermine what little remains of our social goods. Governments in wealthy places like the US and Europe have used “shocks” as cover for reducing public spending and turning over more and more of the economy to private control. We must be vigilant to ensure that more of our well being and material needs are not allowed to fall into private control during this time. 

The pandemic has demonstrated just how all the cruelties of capitalism have been a choice, and how easily those crises can melt away. Cities and states can freeze evictions, because nobody ever had to have been evicted. Schools provide food for free to children, because children don’t have to pay for lunch and be denied for school lunch debt. Medical testing can be provided for free, because medical care can be provided according to need. 

A further question: who has really kept society running during the coronavirus pandemic? Who has cleaned, who has bagged the groceries and stocked shelves? It’s workers. Who is most at risk of catching the virus? The answer, of course, are the people who can’t afford to lock themselves up for two weeks: workers. 

Which then begs another question: what use are the bosses who tell people to come in,  the people who “manage,” who maybe work from home or have a better option for taking time off, while the person who cleans bathrooms and puts groceries up is putting themselves at direct risk, our bus drivers, our retail workers? By their very fear in the face of crisis, managers have proven a very simple thing: they are extraneous. 

Which leads to one final question: why are they calling the shots? Why are they asking you to come in? Why do they decide if your business is open yet couldn’t run it if you didn’t come in?

There has never been a time better than this crisis to ask the question: what if we ran this workplace? What if we made the schedules, decided who did what, and the pay was to our benefit? Because the next time there’s a crisis, you won’t have to ask the question: why am I risking life and limb to make somebody else rich?

Socialism is the Solution

Because our economy and society are almost completely dedicated to profit, growth, extraction, and productivity, we find ourselves in a perilous situation when a public health crisis strikes and we are unable to maintain the “proper” levels of all of these activities. What if our economy and society were dedicated to care, sustainability, peace, and freedom? 

If a public health crisis struck a society that had universal, guaranteed healthcare, housing, food, and education, that society would have a much clearer path through the crisis. Workers and those in poverty wouldn’t have to worry that an interruption of their ability to sell their labor for a wage would mean the loss of resources like housing, food, and healthcare. The use of coercion and violence would be lessened because there would not be an enormous class (the majority) of people living paycheck-to-paycheck. In a more socialistic society, surviving would not simply be a contest of “all against all,” as it essentially is under capitalism, but instead a collective effort, a society of “all for all.”

What You Can Do

We can still help each other! Leave a note for your neighbors, something like: “Hi Neighbor, Letting you know that I am/we are available in these uncertain times to help with things like food, medicine, or essential chores.” Then share your phone number and apartment number or address. And remember: follow CDC guidelines when venturing out or interacting with others, especially if you or them are at a high risk of infection.

Sign the Petition from the Richmond Tenants Union

Demand a rent and evictions freeze, as well as protections for workers and prisoners from infection, in this petition for a People’s Pandemic Response in Richmond. Sign the petition and call Mayor Stoney, Governor Northam, and your state and congressional representatives to demand the following:


Rent Strike!

Don’t Rent Strike alone! As people lose their jobs and income, the sheer necessity of withholding rent is growing. We’re always stronger together, including against the landlord. If you want or need to rent strike, try to get a majority of your building or other people who share your landlord to rent strike as well. DSA Richmond is a proud partner of the Richmond Tenants Union, who produced this guide to how to organize a tenants council and rent strike in your building: Rent Suspension or Rent Strike.

Support Former Camp Cathy Residents

Camp Cathy was a tent city sited outside of Richmond’s cold-weather shelter until Mayor Stoney’s administration decided to trash the tents and force the homeless out (during a pandemic!). But the former residents still need your help. You can sign up with Continuum of Care through the Virginia Defenders by emailing your name, email address, phone number, and your neighborhood to DefendersFJE@hotmail.com.  

Support Food Not Bombs

Food Not Bombs is a collective preparing and distributing vegan or vegetarian food for free to anybody who needs it. All of their food is from surplus food that would otherwise go to waste from bakeries and grocery stores. They have a number of volunteer opportunities, pending changes due to the pandemic.

Support Indie Lab’s Community Testing for COVID-19

Indie Lab is a local laboratory for the people that provides community space for research and innovation. They are currently working to expand COVID-19 testing in Virginia, so please support their work!

Support the Metropolitan Community Church

The Metropolitan Community Church has been the gracious host of our general meetings for the several years now. Please support them and their programs!

Provide for Richmond Mutual Aid

Sign Up for Our Newsletter “The Richmond Rose”