The inhuman irony of half of US states choosing today of all days to begin easing restrictions on going back to work should not be lost on us. Forcing people back on the job on the very same day that the rest of the civilized world marks as a holiday for labor rights, when at least 63,000 citizens have already died and millions more infected, the message could not be more explicit.
In a subverted twist on the right-wing biblical nostrum "he who does not work shall not eat," the ruling class's new improved implicit mantra is "both he who does work and he who does not work shall not only not eat, his premature death will be his own fault whatever choice he makes. We, the Job Creators, absolve ourselves of all legal and moral responsibility."
Since nothing must ever keep Donald Trump from his Big Macs and other artery-clogging animal flesh, he has ordered that the country's infested meat-packing plants be kept open, worker safety be damned.
The common topic of debate among the pundits and the policy-makers is not over whether to give people universal guaranteed income and health care during the pandemic. It is over how many of our deaths are worth the return of unfettered capitalism, historic wealth inequality, and unmitigated greed.
The United States had "officially" abandoned its shameful eugenics and blatant Jim Crow policies only when our leaders realized that they had directly inspired the Nuremberg Laws and the Nazi extermination camps. Post-World War II, the American Century was declared by the victorious ruling elites whose propaganda goal was to become a kinder, gentler Imperium bringing democracy to the rest of the world and destroying the New Deal under the guise of fighting Russia and communism.
The pandemic has provided these rulers with a unique opportunity. It is accomplishing what mass sterilizations, voter disenfranchisement and cuts to social welfare programs never could. In varying degrees of doublespeak and euphemisms, they recommend that the country "gradually" be opened up so that good old Laissez-Faire can do the trick. The fact that this pandemic is disproportionately sickening and killing Latinos and Blacks in particular, and poor, sick and old people in general, is simply a fringe benefit for an oligarchy that has spent the last 40 years culling the American herd.
The designated working class guinea pigs of the oligarchic eugenicists are, however, refusing to go gently into that rotten night. Labor journalist Mike Elk, who has been tracking news reports of labor strikes throughout the pandemic in his Payday Report blog, notes this is no easy task, given that the pandemic has also accelerated the closings of local news outlets which otherwise would have been covering these strikes. As it is, the mainstream corporate press is accentuating astroturfed uprisings backed by right-wing groups. We are told that armed militias are out in force, demanding the right to die in the name of American economic freedom.
But as Elk reports, there have been at least 150 wildcat strikes since early March. Some have involved sick-outs, others were temporary walkouts settled almost immediately with employers. It's as impossible to learn the true total of these labor actions as it is to know the full extent of Covid-19 morbidity and mortality in the deliberate absence of adequate testing.
And it's not just workers who are striking. It's the nation's renters. Estimates are that a third to as much as one half of tenants are unable to pay May rent, making it the largest de facto rent strike in the nation's history. Thus far, calls for a rent freeze for the duration of the pandemic have mostly fallen on deaf political ears.
As is the case with the mass wage stagnation which preceded the current unemployment crisis, the housing crisis has been brewing for a long time. The majority of low income earners were already paying more than half their wages on their rent before the pandemic threw them out of work.
As a whole, landlords are not only not sympathetic, they are acting downright psychopathic. On a personal note, my own landlord just sent me a notice increasing my rent by 16 percent beginning on June 1st - this is on top of the 25 percent hike he levied last year to keep up with the "going market rate" in my increasingly gentrified area. Fortunately for me and other abused tenants, though, the greedster did not supply the 90 days notice now required in New York for people who have lived in their apartments longer than two years. His self-defeating flouting of the law, coupled with the state's temporary stay on evictions, at least gives me and the others some housing security for the next three months, along with the time to fight the extortionist attempt at rent-gouging.
Our solidarity with one another is our strength. And the bastards know it.
And there's no law that says we can't also be blissfully joyful as we go merrily astray, either.
Happy May Day, everybody!