archive: April 2020

15 April 2020

Corey Robin: “Of all political forms, democracy is the most dependent on the participation of its citizens. Critically, that participation is supposed to be collective. Citizens are bound to each other, which makes them a people, and they govern as a people. Democracy ‘is not an alternative to other principles of associated life,’ wrote John Dewey. ‘It is the idea of community life itself.’ And though a voting booth may be more reminiscent of a cubicle or a confessional than an assembly, what we do inside of that booth is a public endeavor. Yet, if we cannot gather to assemble or vote, much less deliberate, in what sense can we have a democracy? How do we do politics in a pandemic, self-governance under quarantine? Is it possible to supervise the supervisors if we’re too sequestered — or sick — to vote? … When people express concern about the consequences of pandemic politics for democracy, they are thinking of a fairly familiar, and limited, repertoire of activities — voting, primaries, conventions, marching in the streets. But the counter-tradition of inauspicious democracy teaches us that the world of established institutions and familiar tactics, even if those tactics once belonged to protest movements past, is not the only place to look for democracy.”

Dimitris Fasfalis: “The map clearly shows that the Covid-19 is concentrated in the three world poles that dominate the capitalist world system: East Asia, Western Europe and North America. More specifically, a correlation seems to appear between the pandemic and the intensity of flows and mobilities in world metropolises. American geographer and historian Mike Davis had previously shown the systemic links between globalized capitalism and the swine flu. Today, it is clear that the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrates that the productive forces accumulated on a world scale have become forces of destruction which plunge us into post-modern barbarism. To get out of it, we must reconnect, as many social movements do, with the radical quest for other paths than those of state and capital, to invent the unknown, beyond disaster capitalism.”

The Workers Solidarity collective: “One thing we know about COVID-19, is that its impact both medically and economically, is global. Workers are fighting for the same things everywhere – and we are stronger together. On April 7 this year, 32 unionists and working class representatives from 11 different countries got together on a call. We started discussing the possibility of developing a Global List of Workers’ Demands in the COVID-19 Crisis. The list below, is that proposed list. It’s not set in stone, and Workers’ Solidarity is interested in your views and opinions about them. If workers across the world don’t agree with these demands, there’s no point in having them. This same group of unionists and working class representatives is getting together again soon, and we will vote on these demands. Your opinions, dissent, agreement, amendments and counter proposals will be very welcome, and they will be discussed.” Click through and find the list of demands on page 7, then send any feedback to

The Forge argues for Bargaining for the Common Good as the strategic basis for our coronavirus response: “There are moments in history when the world teeters on a razor’s edge–where we can simultaneously imagine a world remade based on equality, justice and collective liberation and yet risk descending into a dystopian world of disaster capitalism, hyper inequality, exploding racism and patriarchy and political repression. We believe we are in such a moment. While emergency funds trickle to communities, we know on the other side of this pandemic, we will face massive calls for austerity, attacks on the public sector, pension crises, cuts to important social programs, and calls for public and private sector unions to make contract concessions. The question for our movements and our communities is this: Is our goal to return to the ‘normal’ pre-pandemic world of inequality, racism, and corporate domination or to imagine, organize, and fight for the world we want to create and deserve? … We have the power to transform our world and Bargaining for the Common Good is an essential tool in that effort. The time has come for us to stand together to do everything in our power to fight for the common good.”

6 April 2020

The Financial Times has lurched to the left [$]: “[T]o demand collective sacrifice you must offer a social contract that benefits everyone. Today’s crisis is laying bare how far many rich societies fall short of this ideal. Much as the struggle to contain the pandemic has exposed the unpreparedness of health systems, so the brittleness of many countries’ economies has been exposed… Despite inspirational calls for national mobilisation, we are not really all in this together. … Countries that have allowed the emergence of an irregular and precarious labour market are finding it particularly hard to channel financial help to workers with such insecure employment. Meanwhile, vast monetary loosening by central banks will help the asset-rich. Behind it all, underfunded public services are creaking under the burden of applying crisis policies. … Radical reforms — reversing the prevailing policy direction of the last four decades — will need to be put on the table. Governments will have to accept a more active role in the economy. They must see public services as investments rather than liabilities, and look for ways to make labour markets less insecure. Redistribution will again be on the agenda; the privileges of the elderly and wealthy in question. Policies until recently considered eccentric, such as basic income and wealth taxes, will have to be in the mix.”

4 April 2020

Left-wing podcast recommendations to get you through the lockdown

Here is a list of left-wing (social democratic, socialist, communist, anarchist, anti-racist, whatever) podcasts that I subscribe to. I listen to some of them weekly, some of them depending on the topic or the guest, and some of them only occasionally. You’ll have to guess which is which…



I’m open to suggestions of any good podcasts I’ve missed — @thebannerbright or

2 April 2020

Tim Dunlop: “One of things we have to unlearn in the wake of the coronavirus moment is the idea of what we might call efficiency, as both an economic goal and a social philosophy. Much of the logic of our current economic systems is based on the idea that if we can cut the ‘fat’ out of the way in which corporations and, just as importantly, governments operate, we will end up with much more efficient systems and we will all be better off. The idea has some appeal, even some merit, in good times, but it is ultimately a false god. When a crisis inevitably appears, our worship of efficiency, no matter how well it may have seemed to be working in the good times, leaves us ill-prepared for the bad times. … [W]e actually need to build some fat into the system so that it is better insulated when the inevitable shock, or crisis, comes. … We have to presume that risk, at varying levels, is inherent in any system as complex as an economy or a society, and we therefore need, to some extent, to act in the good times as if we were living in bad times, even if that means governments can’t be as efficient market theory demands. Because if we think COVID-19 has brought the world to its knees, what exactly do we think climate change is going to do?”

The United Workers Union’s Tim Kennedy: “[A] wage guarantee … should be a right. Your income support should not be predicated on how privileged you were before the crisis. The problem with only focusing on a jobs guarantee — a danger the union movement could fall for — is that it entrenches the divide between workers who were in secure work before the crisis and those who weren’t. This speaks to our other demands, including a moratorium on rent and mortgage payments. We are supporting calls for a rent strike. We also want to open Medicare up for everyone in the country and introduce an amnesty for workers without a visa. And we want to raise the tax-free threshold, so that lower-income earners can cope. … The system is broken and it’s not good enough to patch it up and sail on through. We’ve seen these crises keep coming; after 2008–9, they said it was a once in fifty-year thing. Ten years later, a pandemic knocked capitalism over very quickly. … And on top of it all, we’ve got a climate crisis that keeps ratcheting up every year, which also threatens the system. … Our challenge is to use the moment to really press for change. We need to take action now. … Now is the time to fight for it.”