Big Pharma Is Obscenely Jacking Up the Prices of Publicly Funded COVID Vaccines / by Luke Savage

Moderna plans to raise the price of its vaccine from $20.69 to as much as $130 per dose. Pfizer is reportedly planning to do much the same. (Eko Siswono Toyudho / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Originally published in Jacobin on January 2, 2023

With pharma giant Moderna planning to quintuple the price it charges for its COVID vaccines — developed using taxpayer dollars — the case for nationalizing an out-of-control drug industry has never been stronger.

Last month, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel issued a letter to the company’s shareholders effusively touting its accomplishments throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. “As our first approved product,” he wrote of Moderna’s COVID vaccine, “it has impacted hundreds of millions of lives around the world. . . . We are harnessing the power of mRNA to create a new category of medicines and a company that maximizes its impact on human health.”

As the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik pointed out, a few salient points were absent from Bancel’s lengthy exercise in corporate back-patting — notably the company’s plan to raise the price of its vaccine from $20.69 to as much as $130 per dose. Also missing, though likely not far from the top of Bancel’s mind, was the nearly $20 billion in vaccine-related profits projected late last year — a figure that will rise considerably if the planned price hike goes into effect. Pfizer, which also developed a vaccine using mRNA technology, is reportedly planning to do much the same and similarly reaped a windfall worth tens of billions from its vaccine in 2022.

If nothing else, drug companies may soon rediscover the deep-seated public antipathy they mostly elicited prior to the pandemic. COVID-19 represented an unprecedented PR coup for pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and Moderna as tribunes of a widely hated industry, whose quickly developed vaccine technologies transformed them from corporate malefactors into chirpy meme fodder in the span of just a few months. Often missed was the role both played in maintaining patent monopolies that slowed down vaccine production. Similarly left out of the story was the extensive role played by the public sector in the development of major COVID vaccines. In the case of Moderna alone, this included not only over a billion in grants from the federal government that sheltered the company from risk but also the untold sums poured into federally funded research concerned with mRNA technology.

Large pharmaceutical companies, in other words, took none of the risks — financial or scientific — necessary to develop vaccines and, not content with their existing billions in profits, are now set to gouge the public even more. As Hiltzik has observed, the recent recommendations of public health officials for annual COVID boosters probably means that the likes of Pfizer and Moderna will be guaranteed a further windfall whose costs will be borne by the public. It’s similarly likely both will continue to funnel billions into stock buybacks that could otherwise be spent on new research.

You would be hard-pressed to find a better illustration of why it’s the height of insanity to leave something as essential as public health to the profit-guided dictates of the market. With even a modicum of sensible regulation and consumer protection in place, much of what pharmaceutical companies have been doing since 2020 would be illegal. Upon taking office, Joe Biden’s administration ignored a golden opportunity to reconfigure existing rules around intellectual property vis-à-vis vaccine patents — also, less surprising, leaving off the table bolder options like the World War II–style nationalization of vaccine production.

It is, however, not too late. If companies remain intent on raising the price of goods likely to remain vital to the protection of public health in the years to come, the federal government should at minimum compel them to open up their patents. A new regulatory framework could also be introduced to restrict profiteering on essential drugs and pharmaceutical products developed on the back of publicly funded research. Alternatively, Big Pharma can be left to its own devices to repeat the current pattern in perpetuity: against the interests of the public and collective health, and to the boundless glee of its unfathomably well-off shareholders.


Luke Savage is a staff writer at Jacobin.

U.S. Deaths Highlight Need for Far-Reaching Change / By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Demonstrators carry a coffin over Brooklyn Bridge during a march against gun violence, 06.02.18, in NY. | Mary Altaffer – AP

Under U.S. capitalism, industrial production and consumerism expand. Greenhouse gases increase, the climate changes, and people die. U.S. imperialism leads to wars and potentially nuclear war.

U.S. life expectancy has fallen. According to government statistics released in December, 2022, life expectancy at birth (LEB) for 2021 was 76.4 years. LEB was 77.0 years in 2020 and 78.8 years in 2019. Public health officials claimed this “was the biggest two-year decline in life expectancy since 1921-1923.”

Mothers fare badly. In 2020,19.1 mothers in general and 55.3 Black mothers died per 100,000 live births. They died from illnesses related to childbearing, most of them preventable. In the Netherlands that year, the maternal mortality rate was 1.2 mothers per 100,000 live births. In 2018, 55 nations showed a rate more favorable than that of the United States. 

Americans, mostly working-age adults, die from “diseases of despair” – substance abuse, accidental drug overdose, alcoholism, and suicide. They also died of Covid 19 infection, the U.S. rate of 332.81 Covid deaths per 100,000 population being the 16th highest in the world.

During most of the pandemic, Black people died at two or more times the rate of infected white people. Now the cumulative death rates of each group are similar, with 355 deaths of whites and 369 deaths of Blacks per 100,000 population. Cumulative Covid deaths for American indigenous peoples register at 478 deaths per 100,000 population. Vaccine skepticism may account for increased vulnerability of whites. 

The pandemic aside, Blacks and American Indians live far shorter lives than white people do. As of October 2022, LEB for Hispanics was 77.7 years; white people, 76.6 years; Blacks, 70.8 years; and American Indians, 65.2 years. In 2020, 65 nations showed longer LEB than did the United States.

Healthcare failings may have contributed to the high U.S death rates. Proposals for reform, especially for universal healthcare, center on its financing. The United States is the top healthcare spender among all nations.

Paying  $12,914 per capita for healthcare in 2021, the United States outspent second-place spender Germany whose outlay was $7383 per capita. Total spending on health that year amounted to $4.3 trillion –18.3% of the U.S. GDP. The United States accounted for 42% of healthcare spending in the world in 2018.

Healthcare in the United States is a profit center. The pricing of drugs, medical equipment, medical insurance, and services provided by hospitals and outpatient facilities in general is exorbitant.  Executives of medical supply and pharmaceutical companies, specialty physicians, and administrators of hospitals and healthcare networks receive enormous salaries.

Profitmaking hospital chains, health insurance companies, and pharmaceutical companies generate enough revenue to allow for stock buybacks and dividend payments. Over nine recent years 14 pharmaceutical companies spent $747 billion on stock buybacks. Payments to private insurance companies and private hospital networks are large enough to cover astronomically high administrative costs and profit-taking.

Some healthcare and health-promotion activities produce no revenue, or very little. They tend to receive relatively little support and skimpy funding.

  • The U.S. public health sector, charged with health education and illness prevention, is a low-priority item. Inadequate preparation and preventative measures largely accounted for the U.S. Covid-19 debacle. 
  • Insurance companies dedicate effort to denying coverage for particular diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.
  • Multi-hospital, multi-service conglomerates are cutting back on health services in rural and economical depressed areas because of decreased “productivity.” 
  • Many hospitals have recently dropped children’s hospital services as being less remunerative than care for hospitalized adults.
  • Small rural hospitals unable to pay bills have been closing down in droves throughout the nation, depriving area residents of care.
  • Specialty practitioners and hospitals often prioritize expensive medical procedures and high-technology diagnostic modes over care centering on provider – patient interaction and communication.
  • Many physicians during training opt for a specialty rather than a primary-care career, often because of income considerations. Primary care physicians now comprise only 20% of all U.S. physicians.
  • Diminished emphasis on a “medical home,” that hallmark of primary care, opens the door to inefficient, low-quality care.

Other capitalist countries have achieved long life expectancies.  The average life expectancy for 2021 in eight European countries plus Australia and Japan was 82.4 years. Their average per- capita health spending was $6,003. Japan spent $4,666 per capita on healthcare; LEB was 84.5 years.

Those countries protect healthcare as a public good, mainly because labor unions and social democratic or labor political parties apply pressure. Universal access to care is the norm. 

Universal care in the United States is but a dream. U.S. unions are weak and there is no working people’s political party. Some 25 million working age adults had no health insurance in 2021; insurance for 23% of them was inadequate. Too many have no care or fragmented care.

Reform efforts will continue in the United States, propelled perhaps by worsening life expectancy. But healthcare has its limitations. Steven Woolf, retired director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Center on Society and Health, told an interviewer recently that better healthcare is “only a partial answer” to extending life expectancy, accounting “for about 10 to 20 percent of health outcomes.”

He explained: “Our health is really shaped by our living conditions, jobs, the wages we earn, our wealth accumulation, the education that enables us to get those jobs … The country that we live in is the richest in the world, but we have the highest level of income inequality. So, much of the resources that we need for a healthy population are not available to most of the population.”

Woolf is saying, in effect, that people die early because of inequalities, oppression, and organized greed. The United States appears as different from other rich capitalist counties. Social guarantees are fragile. The wealthy have few restraints on satisfying their wants. A besieged working class lacks voice and agency.

The prospect that reforms, alone, will restore justice and decent lives for working people is nil. They confront a voracious, extreme kind of capitalism.  Its rulers tolerate, promote, and seek out collaborators for actions and policies leading to die-offs. Think climate catastrophe, wars, and nuclear war.

In response to impending disaster, Americans desiring better and more secure lives for everyone would adjust their forward vision. Working for reforms, they would aim at something new, which is top-to-bottom social and political change. New motivation, determination and hope would be a shot in the arm.

Revolutionary change is a worldwide project, and not to be left to one people – except in special circumstances. One such was pre-1917 Czarist Russia and another would be that anomaly among capitalist nations which is the death-dealing U.S. nation.


W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.

The crisis in US children’s hospitals and the need for socialist public health / by Evan Blake

Originally published on the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS), on October 27, 2022

Over the past month, children’s hospitals across the United States have entered an unprecedented crisis. They are being inundated with a wave of infants and toddlers hospitalized with a range of respiratory illnesses, well before the normal peak in December. The most common source of hospitalizations is currently respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), but rhinovirus, enterovirus, adenovirus, the flu and COVID-19 are also implicated, and there are reports of children infected with multiple of these viruses simultaneously.

From coast to coast, pediatric hospitals have reached or exceeded capacity, with three-quarters of all pediatric hospital beds in the US now occupied. Entire states are near capacity, including Rhode Island (99 percent of all pediatric hospital beds filled), Texas (91 percent), Missouri (89 percent) and others.

Seattle Children’s Hospital reports that its emergency room (ER) is now at 200 percent of capacity. At Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, the largest pediatric hospital in California, the past few days have seen a doubling of visits to the ER, with wait times also doubling to up to six hours. Other major cities with pediatric hospital bed and staffing shortages include Chicago, New York City, New Orleans, Detroit, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Baltimore, Austin and more. Many families have had to drive for hours or fly to other states when the pediatric hospital in their region has reached capacity.

At Connecticut Children’s Medical Center in Hartford, Connecticut, officials are considering whether to ask the National Guard and the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) to set up a field tent on the hospital’s lawn to care for an overflow of children with RSV. Catherine Morgan, a mother from nearby Meriden whose two-month-old son Grant was just hospitalized with RSV at Connecticut Children’s, told local news, “Once we got inside, there’s gurneys throughout the hallways with families just waiting for a room.”

Speaking on the terrifying progression of her son’s illness, Morgan said, “It’s very scary. Respiratory distress is very concerning. He has such little lungs and can’t really breathe. … Within four hours he was using his whole body to breathe. It makes me tear up thinking about it.”

Throughout the country, thousands of children are undergoing the trauma of hospitalization, which studies have shown can have long-term ramifications. Their parents and caregivers are sitting nervously by their side, holding their children, or turned away from hospitals which lack enough staff.

The only comparable mass child hospitalization of this dimension took place last January, as the supposedly “mild” Omicron variant hospitalized an average of 914 children daily and killed over 200 children that month alone.

Experts warn that in the coming weeks, expected surges of the flu and COVID-19—for both of which most children remain unvaccinated—will cause a “triple threat” that will strain pediatric hospitals past their breaking point.

RSV is a seasonal virus which can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis in young children, severely impacting their ability to breathe, and can be life-threatening. It has historically caused an average of 58,000 hospitalizations and up to 500 deaths per year in children under 5 years old, along with 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths annually among adults 65 and older. Collectively, respiratory pathogens are among the worst killers in the world, with the World Health Organization (WHO) finding they cause the highest global burden of disease measured by years lost through death or disability.

Almost all of the media coverage has sought to blame the present crisis on mitigation measures put in place in 2020 to limit the spread of COVID-19, including lockdowns, masking, remote learning and social distancing, which built up a so-called “immunity debt” among infants who were not exposed to RSV and other viruses. This unscientific term is a red herring meant to deflect blame from those who bear political responsibility for the current catastrophe.

In reality, the surge of these respiratory viruses is the direct consequence of the “forever COVID” policy now pursued by the Biden administration and every state government, which over the past year have systematically dismantled all anti-COVID mitigation measures. Unlike in 2020 and 2021, this school year began with the lifting of mask mandates in every major school district across the US, allowing all respiratory pathogens to spread unchecked among over 50 million children, most of whom were immunologically naive to many respiratory viruses due to masking and social distancing. Despite numerous warnings, nothing was done to prepare for the present surge.

Immunologist Dr. Anthony Leonardi, who has consistently spoken out against the “herd immunity” COVID-19 policies which have led to the mass infection of children, recently wrote on the concept of “immunity debt,” concluding, “We mustn’t delude ourselves into thinking infections actually confer a benefit or are a debt that must be paid. They are more like a tax we make the children pay for our civilization not being developed enough to prevent viral illnesses that hospitalize thousands of children per year.”

Dr. Leonardi also called attention to the growing body of research demonstrating that COVID-19 can cause significant damage to one’s immune system.

According to the latest estimates from the CDC, 86.3 percent of the US child population has likely been infected with COVID-19 at least once. Even if only a tiny percentage of these 62 million children now have damaged immune systems, it is very likely a contributing factor to the current surge of child hospitalizations. Many professionals have noted that healthy children who normally would not suffer severe disease are being hospitalized by RSV and other viruses.

Map showing the estimated percentage of the child population infected in each US state. [Photo: CDC]

In the winter of 2020-21, RSV, the flu and most other respiratory pathogens were nearly eliminated in numerous countries, a remarkable but unintended byproduct of the limited masking and social distancing then in place. During that winter, only one child died from the flu in the US, and this week in 2020 saw only 10 confirmed RSV infections, compared to over 7,000 last week.

Chart showing the number of confirmed weekly RSV infections in the US, from October 2020 to the present. [Photo: WSWS]

One of the greatest scientific breakthroughs during the pandemic was the early recognition that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is transmitted almost entirely through tiny aerosols that people emit through talking, singing and even just breathing, which then linger in the air for minutes or even hours at a time. Proving that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne prompted further investigation into other pathogens, including RSV, which had been shown to be airborne as early as 2016.

In a rational society, this scientific knowledge would have prompted the largest renovation of global infrastructure in history, in order to modernize buildings with high quality air filtration and ventilation systems. Instead, the science was suppressed and distorted by nearly every government and public health agency in the world, above all, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Fundamentally, the science of airborne transmission shifts responsibility for viral transmission from the individual to the social level, placing the onus on governments to clean the air in all public spaces. But under capitalism, even this minimal encroachment on private profit is beyond the pale.

In a remarkable press conference Wednesday, White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha stated that COVID-19 “is purely airborne,” the most open acknowledgment of airborne transmission by any White House official. He then falsely counterposed COVID-19 to RSV, which he implied could be curtailed simply by hand washing and “keeping kids home when they are sick,” an impossibility for most working class families. When asked by a reporter whether parents should give their children masks to protect themselves from RSV and other respiratory illnesses, Dr. Jha evaded the question.

The same processes are unfolding globally. In Ontario, Canada, where all anti-COVID mitigations have been dropped, pediatric hospitals are also being inundated with RSV and other respiratory pathogens, while school teachers are no longer allowed to even report likely COVID-19 infections in their classrooms.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that capitalism is thoroughly hostile to the principles of public health which prove that SARS-CoV-2, RSV, the flu and numerous other pathogens can be eliminated globally through a massive expansion of testing, modernized contact tracing, access to health care, the renovation of infrastructure, temporary paid lockdowns and more.

The “infection tax” on children and all of society is being imposed by the capitalist class, which views the working class as nothing more than fodder for exploitation, whose “nonproductive” lives should be cut as short as possible.

Through their policies, the capitalists have nearly destroyed health care systems throughout the world. In the US alone, an estimated 333,942 health care providers left the workforce in 2021, while a recent survey found that more than one-third of nurses plan to leave their current roles by the end of the year. The same process has unfolded in schools, the key centers for viral transmission throughout the pandemic, with huge shortages of educators across the US and internationally.

In response to the inflationary crisis triggered by the unending pandemic and the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, the working class is entering into struggle throughout the world. This developing international class struggle must become the basis for the fight to stop the pandemic, end the war, and massively expand public health and all other social services. Only through the socialist overturn of existing property relations can mankind rebuild society and guarantee the universal right to a decent, long life free of poverty and disease.


World Socialist Web Site, October 27, 2022, https://www.wsws.org/

The (American) Exception to the Rule? / by Richard Rhames

Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

I pruned some tomatoes. I reviewed some stuff from a local planning board meeting last night (where nearly 200 manufactured houses were proposed for planting in farm fields across town). I checked the weather forecast. Then, as I sometimes do, I checked the UK Guardian newspaper on-line.

I’ve seldom found big US media terribly useful in understanding how the world works. Coming of age during the Vietnam “conflict” encouraged a certain skepticism of the dominant media “narrative.” There was a history if one looked and, perhaps more impressive to we —-the impressionable— were the stories told by vets returning from “The Nam.” Guys we knew.

There was something else going on.

So, yeah, I look at the foreign press and other underfunded domestic sources. It’s just another reflection of my notoriously “bad attitude”—— an affliction which has rendered me largely unemployable over the years. We subsist on modest income from small-scale farming and (pre-Covid) some ad hoc bar-band earnings.

The Guardian has offered better coverage of the ongoing global heating issue than most. But lately, like US media, it’s gone full-tilt-State Department-berserker on the Ukraine matter. So I check less often.

Today’s (5/19) US edition headlined: “…..Starbucks fired over 20 union leaders in recent months.” That’s just business being business really. Perhaps that’s why, according to a quick search, no US publication was on the story so far. Still, just recently the baristas at the local Biddeford Starbucks coffee “store” announced an attempt at unionization. Their push even made the papers here.

According to the Guardian, “The news comes as Starbucks workers have filed petitions for union elections at more than 250 stores, spanning 35 states in the US. Starbucks’ chief executive, Howard Schultz, has led a campaign against the union movement calling it ‘some outside force that’s going to dictate or disrupt who we are and what we do.’ ”

Howie, Howie, Howie: Go easy, man.

One of the recently fired pro-unionists, Missourian Ashlee Feldman,  filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the NLRB.  She told the Guardian, “I’m shocked at this firing and all I can think about is my eight-year-old autistic son who needs therapy and care that costs money…. These higher-ups don’t care about us. They aren’t in the stores busting ass like we are.”

In Starbucks’ Corp-Speak, waged workers like the terminated Ms. Feldman are referred to as “Partners.”  Take that for what it’s worth. “According to the NLRB, as of 13 May, 69 Starbucks stores have voted to form unions, nine have voted against, and six …. are pending…” (Guardian)

On May 15th, the Guardian headlined, “US Covid deaths hit 1 million, a death toll higher than any other country;  Virus has laid bare America’s fragmented healthcare system and corrosive racial and socioeconomic inequality.”

Stateside, the flags were lowered to half-staff but otherwise  it was business-as-usual. Typically, the US death rate —— higher per 100,000 residents than in any other country except Brazil—— didn’t seem worth analysis or discussion. America, we’re told, is meant to lead the world. We kinda do.

“While the sheer number of deaths from the coronavirus sets the US apart, the country’s large population of 332.5  million people does not explain the staggering mortality rate, which is among the highest in the world,” the Guardian emphasized. “Staggering?” For US media “consumers,” not so much apparently. Nothing to see here.

The deaths are of course primarily among those at the bottom of the wealth pyramid: The “intended or unintended consequences of policy decisions,” wrote the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Further; “Concepts fundamental to US governance also proved problematic in the pandemic. In just one example, the US Constitution makes public health the responsibility of the individual states, creating a patchwork of different pandemic responses.” Of course, some see the “Originalist”  patchwork’s proven lethality as Freedom. But I digress.

Thanks to the union movement, Farmer/Labor political parties, and a working class unwilling to be bullied, the middle years of the 20th century featured a general rise in living standards with decreased wealth inequality. Corporate CEOs generally made about 20 times more than their average workers (“partners”??) in 1965 (20-to-1). By 1985, as federal policy turned against organized (and disorganized) labor,  the ratio had risen to 58-to-1. By the year 2000 the ratio was 368 to one. It’s only gotten worse.

A 2020 Pew Research Center report notes that: “Not only is income inequality rising in the US, it is higher than in other advanced economies….. and inching closer to the level of inequality observed in India.”

India of course is known for its 2,000-year-old Hindu caste system of social hierarchy where one’s position in society is fixed at birth and where destitute farmers commit suicide by drinking pesticide. Farmers here crawl into their balers and combines. So there are still differences.

But don’t blink.


Richard Rhames is a dirt-farmer in Biddeford, Maine (just north of the Kennebunkport town line). He can be reached at: rerhames@gmail.com

Counterpunch, May 23, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/

Maine Poor People’s Campaign mobilizes for national ‘Moral March on Washington’ in June / by Evan Popp

Photo: A day of action organized by the Maine Poor People’s Campaign in Bangor in 2021 | Photo courtesy of Maine Poor People’s Campaign via Facebook 

Mainers from across the state will travel to Washington, D.C., next month as part of a march to demand that those in power stop ignoring the 140 million poor and low-income people living in the U.S and work with them on a moral agenda of justice and equality. 

The event, called the “Moral March on Washington & to the Polls,” will take place June 18 at 9 a.m. in the nation’s capital. The rally is being organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a national coalition building power across marginalized communities to change the moral narrative in the U.S. and demand an end to a series of interconnected injustices. The organization is based on a campaign of the same name created by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the 1960s to unite poor and impacted people around the country. 

In Maine, the state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is mobilizing to bring hundreds of people down to D.C. to participate in the June march. 

“There’s going to be impacted speakers from across the country,” Joshua Kauppila, a Bangor-based organizer working with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said of the event. “We’re going to be lifting our moral agenda up to those down in D.C., and really highlighting how these interlocking injustices of systemic poverty, systemic racism, militarism, the war economy, ecological devastation and that distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism are all part of the problem that we need to solve and that those solutions need to come from poor people.”

Kauppila said the event will feature speeches, music and cultural arts, and a voter registration drive as well as the opportunity for people across the nation to connect over shared issues of injustice. 

“We’re facing just crisis after crisis and … poor and low-income people are so often shoved aside,” Kauppila said. 

Along with building power through community connections and solidarity, Kauppila said the event will also serve as a way to advocate for the policy priorities the Poor People’s Campaign is pushing for. Some of those political goals include comprehensive COVID-19 relief that prioritizes essential workers and marginalized populations, quality health care for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and universal guaranteed housing. 

Traveling to D.C.

Kauppila said the Maine Poor People’s Campaign is working with the bus share system rally.co to get people down to D.C. for the event. According to that site, there will be bus pickup locations in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Lewiston, Portland and Waterville in the evening on Friday, June 17, to bring people to Washington. Kauppila said participants would return to Maine on Sunday morning, the day after the rally. 

More information on the bus schedule can be found here. Information on how to RSVP for the event can be found here

Kauppila said the group has raised funds to ensure that those who can’t pay for a bus ticket or other associated costs of the trip can still go, as the group wants as many low-income Mainers as possible to attend to demonstrate the potential political power of poor people. 

“We recognize that group of voters has not been activated for the primary reason that their issues are not being addressed and the politicians who claim to promote their issues don’t follow through,” Kauppila said. 

Marcella Makinen, treasurer for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, added that the mass gathering in D.C. has the potential to be transformative in terms of demonstrating the reality of a U.S. system in which inequality has continued to skyrocket.

“It’s important to be changing the narrative on why people don’t have enough resources to eat and don’t have enough resources to pay their rent. It’s too easy to blame oneself and then that leads to depression,” Makinen said, arguing that “discovering that there’s a system where rich people get richer for not doing anything can be really liberating in and of itself.” 

Willie Hurley, another organizer with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said he hopes the June rally will help connect disparate grassroots campaigns together in a shared push for justice. 

“We have all these separate tiny little movements and organizations all working on their different things. This is an opportunity to bring all those things together,” Hurley said. “It’s 40 percent of the country, poor people. It’s the sleeping giant.”  


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Maine Beacon, May 11 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

Maine Poor People’s Campaign mobilizes for national ‘Moral March on Washington’ in June / by Evan Popp

Photo: A day of action organized by the Maine Poor People’s Campaign in Bangor in 2021 | Photo courtesy of Maine Poor People’s Campaign via Facebook 

Mainers from across the state will travel to Washington, D.C., next month as part of a march to demand that those in power stop ignoring the 140 million poor and low-income people living in the U.S and work with them on a moral agenda of justice and equality. 

The event, called the “Moral March on Washington & to the Polls,” will take place June 18 at 9 a.m. in the nation’s capital. The rally is being organized by the Poor People’s Campaign, a national coalition building power across marginalized communities to change the moral narrative in the U.S. and demand an end to a series of interconnected injustices. The organization is based on a campaign of the same name created by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others in the 1960s to unite poor and impacted people around the country. 

In Maine, the state chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is mobilizing to bring hundreds of people down to D.C. to participate in the June march. 

“There’s going to be impacted speakers from across the country,” Joshua Kauppila, a Bangor-based organizer working with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said of the event. “We’re going to be lifting our moral agenda up to those down in D.C., and really highlighting how these interlocking injustices of systemic poverty, systemic racism, militarism, the war economy, ecological devastation and that distorted moral narrative of Christian nationalism are all part of the problem that we need to solve and that those solutions need to come from poor people.”

Kauppila said the event will feature speeches, music and cultural arts, and a voter registration drive as well as the opportunity for people across the nation to connect over shared issues of injustice. 

“We’re facing just crisis after crisis and … poor and low-income people are so often shoved aside,” Kauppila said. 

Along with building power through community connections and solidarity, Kauppila said the event will also serve as a way to advocate for the policy priorities the Poor People’s Campaign is pushing for. Some of those political goals include comprehensive COVID-19 relief that prioritizes essential workers and marginalized populations, quality health care for all, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and universal guaranteed housing. 

Traveling to D.C.

Kauppila said the Maine Poor People’s Campaign is working with the bus share system rally.co to get people down to D.C. for the event. According to that site, there will be bus pickup locations in Auburn, Augusta, Bangor, Dover-Foxcroft, Lewiston, Portland and Waterville in the evening on Friday, June 17, to bring people to Washington. Kauppila said participants would return to Maine on Sunday morning, the day after the rally. 

More information on the bus schedule can be found here. Information on how to RSVP for the event can be found here

Kauppila said the group has raised funds to ensure that those who can’t pay for a bus ticket or other associated costs of the trip can still go, as the group wants as many low-income Mainers as possible to attend to demonstrate the potential political power of poor people. 

“We recognize that group of voters has not been activated for the primary reason that their issues are not being addressed and the politicians who claim to promote their issues don’t follow through,” Kauppila said. 

Marcella Makinen, treasurer for the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, added that the mass gathering in D.C. has the potential to be transformative in terms of demonstrating the reality of a U.S. system in which inequality has continued to skyrocket.

“It’s important to be changing the narrative on why people don’t have enough resources to eat and don’t have enough resources to pay their rent. It’s too easy to blame oneself and then that leads to depression,” Makinen said, arguing that “discovering that there’s a system where rich people get richer for not doing anything can be really liberating in and of itself.” 

Willie Hurley, another organizer with the Maine Poor People’s Campaign, said he hopes the June rally will help connect disparate grassroots campaigns together in a shared push for justice. 

“We have all these separate tiny little movements and organizations all working on their different things. This is an opportunity to bring all those things together,” Hurley said. “It’s 40 percent of the country, poor people. It’s the sleeping giant.”  


Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan@mainebeacon.com.

Maine Beacon, May 11 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

In a world of great disorder and extravagant lies, we look for compassion / by Vijay Prashad

Francisca Lita Sáez (Spain), An Unequal Fight, 2020.

Greetings from the desk of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.

These are deeply upsetting times. The COVID-19 global pandemic had the potential to bring people together, to strengthen global institutions such as the World Health Organisation (WHO), and to galvanise new faith in public action. Our vast social wealth could have been pledged to improve public health systems, including both the surveillance of outbreaks of illness and the development of medical systems to treat people during these outbreaks. Not so.

Studies by the WHO have shown us that health care spending by governments in poorer nations has been relatively flat during the pandemic, while out-of-pocket private expenditure on health care continues to rise. Since the pandemic was declared in March 2020, many governments have responded with exceptional budget allocations; however, across the board from richer to the poorer nations, the health sector received only ‘a fairly small portion’ while the bulk of the spending was used to bail out multinational corporations and banks and provide social relief for the population.

In 2020, the pandemic cost the global gross domestic product an estimated $4 trillion. Meanwhile, according to the WHO, the ‘needed funding … to ensure epidemic preparedness is estimated to be approximately U.S.$150 billion per year’. In other words, an annual expenditure of $150 billion could likely prevent the next pandemic along with its multi-trillion-dollar economic bill and incalculable suffering. But this kind of social investment is simply not in the cards these days. That’s part of what makes our times so upsetting.

S. H. Raza (India), Monsoon in Bombay, 1947–49.

On 5 May, the WHO released its findings on the excess deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the 24-month period of 2020 and 2021, the WHO estimated the pandemic’s death toll to be 14.9 million. A third of these deaths (4.7 million) are said to have been in India; this is ten times the official figure released by the Government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has disputed the WHO’s figures. One would have thought that these staggering numbers–nearly 15 million dead globally in the two-year period–would be sufficient to strengthen the will to rebuild depleted public health systems. Not so.

According to a study on global health financing, development assistance for health (DAH) increased by 35.7 percent between 2019 and 2020. This amounts to $13.7 billion in DAH, far short of the projected $33 billion to $62 billion required to address the pandemic. In line with the global pattern, while DAH funding during the pandemic went towards COVID-19 projects, various key health sectors saw their funds decrease (malaria by 2.2 percent, HIV/AIDS by 3.4 percent, tuberculosis by 5.5 percent, reproductive and maternal health by 6.8 percent). The expenditure on COVID-19 also had some striking geographical disparities, with the Caribbean and Latin America receiving only 5.2 percent of DAH funding despite experiencing 28.7 percent of reported global COVID-19 deaths.

Sajitha R. Shankar (India), Alterbody, 2008.

While the Indian government is preoccupied with disputing the COVID-19 death toll with the WHO, the government of Kerala–led by the Left Democratic Front–has focused on using any and every means to enhance the public health sector. Kerala, with a population of almost 35 million, regularly leads in the country’s health indicators among India’s twenty-eight states. Kerala’s Left Democratic Front government has been able to handle the pandemic because of its robust public investment in health care facilities, the public action led by vibrant social movements that are connected to the government, and its policies of social inclusion that have minimised the hierarchies of caste and patriarchy that otherwise isolate social minorities from public institutions.

In 2016, when the Left Democratic Front took over state leadership, it began to enhance the depleted public health system. Mission Aardram (‘Compassion’), started in 2017, was intended to improve public health care, including emergency departments and trauma units, and draw more people away from the expensive private health sector to public systems. The government rooted Mission Aardram in the structures of local self-government so that the entire health care system could be decentralised and more closely attuned to the needs of communities. For example, the mission developed a close relationship with the various cooperatives, such as Kudumbashree, a 4.5-million-member women’s anti-poverty programme. Due to the revitalised public health care system, Kerala’s population has begun to turn away from the private sector in favour of these government facilities, whose use increased from 28 percent in the 1980s to 70 percent in 2021 as a result.

As part of Mission Aardram, the Left Democratic Front government in Kerala created Family Health Centres across the state. The government has now established Post-COVID Clinics at these centres to diagnose and treat people who are suffering from long-term COVID-19-related health problems. These clinics have been created despite little support from the central government in New Delhi. A number of Kerala’s public health and research institutes have provided breakthroughs in our understanding of communicable diseases and helped develop new medicines to treat them, including the Institute for Advanced Virology, the International Ayurveda Research Institute, and the research centres in biotechnology and pharmaceutical medicines at the Bio360 Life Sciences Park. All of this is precisely the agenda of compassion that gives us hope in the possibilities of a world that is not rooted in private profit but in social good.

Nguyễn tư Nghiêm (Vietnam), The Dance, 1968.

In November 2021, Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research worked alongside twenty-six research institutes to develop A Plan to Save the Planet. The plan has many sections, each of which emerged out of deep study and analysis. One of the key sections is on health, with thirteen clear policy proposals:

If even half of these policy proposals were to be enacted, the world would be less dangerous and more compassionate. Take point no. 6 as a reference. During the early months of the pandemic, it became normal to talk about the need to support ‘essential workers’, including health care workers (our dossier from June 2020, Health Is a Political Choice, made the case for these workers). All those banged pots went silent soon thereafter and health care workers found themselves with low pay and poor working conditions. When these health care workers went on strike–from the United States to Kenya–that support simply did not materialise. If health care workers had a say in their own workplaces and in the formation of health policy, our societies would be less prone to repeated healthcare calamities.

1. Advance the cause of a people’s vaccine for COVID-19 and for future diseases.
2. Remove patent controls on essential medicines and facilitate the transfer of both medical science and technology to developing countries.
3. De-commodify, develop, and increase investment in robust public health systems.
4. Develop the public sector’s pharmaceutical production, particularly in developing countries.
5. Form a United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Health Threats.
6. Support and strengthen the role health workers’ unions play at the workplace and in the economy.
7. Ensure that people from underprivileged backgrounds and rural areas are trained as doctors.
8. Broaden medical solidarity, including through the World Health Organisation and health platforms associated with regional bodies.
9. Mobilise campaigns and actions that protect and expand reproductive and sexual rights.
10. Levy a health tax on large corporations that produce beverages and foods that are widely recognised by international health organisations to be harmful to children and to public health in general (such as those that lead to obesity or other chronic diseases).
11. Curb the promotional activities and advertising expenditures of pharmaceutical corporations.
12. Build a network of accessible, publicly funded diagnostic centres and strictly regulate the prescription and prices of diagnostic tests.
13. Provide psychological therapy as part of public health systems.

Roque Dalton

There’s an old Roque Dalton poem from 1968 about headaches and socialism that gives us a taste of what it will take to save the planet:

It is beautiful to be a communist,
even if it gives you many headaches.

The communists’ headache
is presumed to be historical; that is to say,
that it does not yield to painkillers,
but only to the realisation of paradise on earth.
That’s the way it is.

Under capitalism, we get a headache
and our heads are torn off.
In the revolution’s struggle, the head is a time-bomb.

In socialist construction,
we plan for the headache
which does not make it scarce, but quite the contrary.
Communism will be, among other things,
an aspirin the size of the sun.

Originally published: Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research on May 12, 2022

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

MR Online, May 13, 2022, https://mronline.org/

Communist Youth League of China marks centenary year / by Zhang Yi

Medical workers from Wuhan, Hubei province, pose for a group photo at the makeshift hospital in the Shanghai New International Expo Center on Wednesday. The medics, mostly young people, were sent to Shanghai to help in the battle against its latest COVID-19 outbreak. ZHU XINGXIN/CHINA DAILY

Cradle of young progressives still serves to inspire today’s generation

Ahead of National Youth Day, which fell on Wednesday, groups of students visited a key site in downtown Beijing to commemorate a patriotic mass student movement formed a century ago.

The students headed to the Red Building, a four-story structure named after its red-brick walls and tiled roof, which used to stand on the main campus of Peking University.

The building was the setting for early Communist revolutionary activities, and a century ago, a group of young progressives pledged themselves to Marxism there and searched for ways to rejuvenate the Chinese nation.

The site became a cradle of the May Fourth Movement of 1919, which was formed on that date when about 3,000 university students in Beijing became its main force in opposing imperialism and feudalism.

The May Fourth Movement spurred the spread of Marxism in China, particularly among the young people.

In 1922, the Communist Youth League of China was established, and this year marks its centenary.

The building now hosts a display of cultural relics, photographs and graphics in rooms on the former campus to illustrate how revolutionary stories unfolded in Beijing during the early 20th century.

In one of the rooms, Zhang Xiaojun, a 20-year-old freshman, used her phone to take videos of photos and sculptures of young figures from the May Fourth Movement, sharing this footage with her classmates.

“These young students from the past were great. Of course, we young people in China today have our own strengths, as we are innovative, ambitious and also willing to devote ourselves to such causes,” she said.

Zhao Qingyang, 44, a Communist Party of China member who works in Beijing, took his 10-year-old daughter to the exhibition twice recently, as he wants her to gain inspiration from such pioneering figures.

“At a difficult time in history, many visionary people spontaneously formed the Marxist belief, which supported them in founding a new China,” he said.

Zhao added that members of the younger generation today also hold promise, as many of them play vital roles in fighting the COVID-19 outbreak and in relief work after natural disasters.

On April 30, 2019, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, said in a speech at a ceremony in Beijing to mark the centenary of the May Fourth Movement that young Chinese are always in the vanguard of the drive to rejuvenate the nation.

He said the 100 years since the May Fourth Movement broke out in 1919 have witnessed the continuous struggle of generations of young Chinese, adding that they have devoted themselves to the great cause of revolution, development and reform led by the Party.

Xi has called a number of times for young people to establish great ideals, love their country, bear responsibilities and promote the spirit of the arduous struggle in the new journey toward the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Hao Ruiting, a professor of youth movement history from the Central School of Communist Youth League of China, said the May Fourth Movement reflected the strengths of young people and prompted them to pursue truth and progress.

The movement also paved the way for the founding of the Communist Party of China and the Communist Youth League of China, or CYLC, he said.

In 1919, the May Fourth Movement spurred the spread of Marxism throughout the country. Two years later, the CPC was founded, and the following year, under the Party’s leadership and promotion, the Communist Youth League was born.

On May 5, 1922, the League held its first National Congress in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, with 25 members attending the meeting representing 5,000 others from across the country.

The League was founded on the 104th anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth. Hao said, “This had an important implication-that it was a revolutionary group that believed in Marxism.”

According to the League’s Constitution, it is a mass organization for advancing young people under the leadership of the CPC. It also acts as a school, where a large number of young people learn about socialism with Chinese characteristics and about communism through practice. The League also assists the Party and acts as a reserve force for it.

The League’s Central Committee works under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee. Local committees of the League work under the leadership of Party committees at corresponding levels and report to the League’s higher-level organizations.

As of Dec 31, the League had more than 73.7 million members nationwide, according to statistics released by the CYLC Central Committee on Monday.

Some 43.81 million of its members are students, while the remainder are from enterprises, public institutions, urban and rural communities, social organizations, and in other fields, the data show.

The members are 14 to 28 years old. A branch of the League should have a minimum of three members, and the CYLC had 3.68 million organizations nationwide by the end of last year, according to the statistics.

Hao said, “Young people are the future and hope of a country and the vanguard of social reform,” adding that as a Marxist political party, the CPC attaches great importance to educating and guiding young people and using their abilities.

Cultivating a large number of people capable of shouldering the “mission of the times” was stressed in a landmark resolution on the Party’s key achievements and experience over the past 100 years.

The resolution stated that the cause of the Party and the nation requires the continuous efforts of Chinese communists over generations. The Party must ensure that this vitally important cause is advanced by future generations.

Wu Qing, head of the Institute of Communist Youth League Work Theory, said establishing the League was a major action by the CPC to mobilize young people to take part in the great transformation of Chinese society.

“This shows that the CPC fully recognizes the important position and role of young people in the development and progress of Chinese society,” Wu said.

He added that over the past 100 years, the CPC has led the League in promoting China’s youth movement, an example of the Party ensuring there are successors to carry forward the great cause of realizing national rejuvenation.

“The experience of the youth movement led by the Party shows that young people need to be better mobilized and organized,” Wu said.

Young people needed an organization to serve as their core leadership to better unite them and promote development of the youth movement, he said. “Without this, the youth movement was bound to be lax and weak.”

The League has the important task of organizing and mobilizing young people through its overall structure, Wu said. It has five levels of committees, ranging from central to township, as well as grassroots branches.

“Some outstanding students join the League while they are at middle and high schools,” he said, adding that its members are “advanced elements” among young people, who will encourage their peers to work hard for the Party and the nation.

Students from a middle school visit an exhibition commemorating the founding of the Communist Party of China at the “Red Building”, once the main campus of Peking University, in Beijing on June 29, 2021. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/chinadaily.com.cn]

Cultivating ideals

Wu said the League does an important job in guiding young people’s thoughts and helping them build “lofty ideals and a firm faith in the path of socialism with Chinese characteristics, enhancing their trust, faith and confidence in the Party.”

Nationwide, the League’s organizations hold Party study activities online and offline, attracting young people, he said.

Wu added that as the younger generation uses the internet and new media a great deal, the League has opened accounts with popular social media platforms. It also produces online public courses, animations, and audio and video products for young people.

He said that by the end of 2020, the League had 120 million followers on new media platforms.

Huang Chenchen, a lecturer in youth work theory and practice studies at the Central School of Communist Youth League of China, said the CYLC Central Committee launched an online learning program in 2018 that featured videos on politics, Party history, and other topics of interest to young people.

“These videos are popular because they are narrated by young people from all over the country, who present topics in a way that is popular with their peers,” Huang said, adding that some celebrities have been invited to appear in the videos.

Another learning program, the Young Marxists Training Project, was launched by the League and several departments to train young political workers for the Party who have a firm belief in Marxism and can adapt it to the Chinese context.

Studying theory and social practice, nearly 3 million people-outstanding university students and young workers from State-owned enterprises, rural areas and social organizations-have joined the program since 2007, according to official data.

“It’s a program to cultivate talent that firmly believes in the Party,” Huang said, adding that the systematic training usually lasts one year.

Guided by related policies, many university students who graduate from the program return to their hometowns, where they become grassroots civil servants, she said.

Inspired by the lofty ideals of communism, an increasing number of the young people have applied to join the Party and the League, according to a white paper on Chinese youth in the new era issued last month by the State Council Information Office of China.

A survey of more than 40 million members by the CYLC Central Committee at the end of last year found that 80 percent of respondents said they were more motivated to join the Party after learning about its history.

Nearly one-third of respondents said they applied to join the Party while they were learning about its history, the committee said.

Task groups formed

Huang said another important mission for the League, as a bridge connecting the Party and young people, is encouraging, guiding and organizing the latter to devote themselves to building the nation.

When there is a major public crisis such as COVID-19 and natural disasters, the League, through its organizations nationwide, quickly gathers a large number of young people to form task groups to serve on the frontline, she said.

As Shanghai battles its worst outbreak of COVID-19 to date, the Shanghai Municipal Committee of the CYLC has urged young people to help contain infections and to “shine in the fight against the pandemic”.

The League’s organizations at all levels in Shanghai have organized more than 78,000 young people to form over 2,500 task groups to work on the frontline, providing medical care, transporting supplies, and constructing facilities, according to the city’s CYLC committee.

According to official data, more than 5.5 million young people in 320,000 task groups have worked on the frontline of epidemic prevention and control in China since COVID-19 emerged.

Of the 28,600 nurses in medical teams sent to Hubei province, where the country’s first COVID-19 outbreak occurred, 90 percent were born from 1980 to 1999.

During construction of the Huoshenshan and Leishenshan makeshift hospitals in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, young workers accounting for 60 percent of the required workforce established 13 task groups, the data show.

These task groups came from different sectors, including construction companies, power grid companies, the health system and civil servants, Huang said.

The task groups’ red flags were hung at the construction sites.

“Such teams were established to emphasize that young people in good health and who are knowledgeable should act as the vanguard force when the country faces challenges,” Huang said.

She added that young Chinese also contribute their strengths in other ways. They work in grassroots areas where conditions are hard; they are a core force for the nation’s major scientific and technological tasks; and many of them are also international volunteers working in poor areas of the world.

“Young Chinese today have adhered to the tradition of arduous struggle, and countless numbers of them work hard in ordinary positions in factories, fields and at construction sites,” she said.

Although young people’s main tasks and roles have had a different focus over the years, they strive to achieve the same goal-the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.

Wu said that over the past 100 years, young people in China have shown great aspirations, deep feelings and great creativity for the country.

He said the goal of national rejuvenation will be achieved with generations of young people capable of shouldering this task contributing their efforts.

China Daily, May 6, 2022, http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/

Chart of The Day – Covid Unemployment – David Ruccio

By David Ruccio, Aug 11, 2020  Source : https://mronline.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/chart-of-the-day-87.jpg

To read the mainstream press, you’d think that the U.S. economy—especially the economy from the standpoint of workers—is on the mend.

The New York Times is a good example:

The American economy gained 1.8 million jobs last month, even as the coronavirus surged in many parts of the country and newly reintroduced restrictions caused some businesses to close for a second time.

And, it’s true, both the official (U-3) unemployment rate (the orange line in the chart) and the more inclusive (U-6) rate (the green line) have fallen since April. But, at 10.2 and 16.5 percent, respectively, they’re still at or just below what they were during the worst period of the Second Great Depression.

Moreover the percentage of American workers who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or more is on the rise—and can be expected to continue to grow in the months ahead.

The massive Reserve Army of unemployed, long-term unemployed, discouraged, and underemployed workers is serving to discipline and punish workers, both those who have managed to keep their jobs and those who have lost them.

We know this because workers’ pay is going down. At the same time, workers are forced to have the freedom to commute to and labor at their jobs under perilous pandemic conditions, they’re being paid less. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, both the average hourly and weekly earnings for production and nonsupervisory workers fell between June and July of this year.*

Meanwhile, now that emergency federal benefits have expired, the unemployed—both continuing cases and newly laid-off workers—will not be receiving the $600-a-week supplement that helped them pay their bills through the spring and early summer.

Instead of raising workers’ wages, to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and to attract them back to work, employers and their political representatives prefer to slash unemployment benefits in order to compel workers to compete for the few jobs that are currently available.

Whichever way you look at it, American workers are the ones who are being forced to shoulder the lion’s share of the costs created by the COVID economic crisis.

*These numbers relate to production employees in mining and logging and manufacturing, construction employees, and nonsupervisory employees in the service-providing industries. These groups account for approximately four-fifths of the total employment on private nonfarm payrolls.

What about Unemployment Councils? – Proposal from Rosanna Cambron and Joe Sims, Co Chairpersons of CPUSA

May 13, 2010

We’re reaching out to comrades and friends all over the country to join in building a united campaign against unemployment. Until it’s safe to work we need income and when it’s safe we demand sustainable jobs with a Green New Deal!

The time has come to organize unemployment councils that would bring together labor and community groups to fight the economic crisis. 

If you want to help out, please pledge to do so!  Pledging means that you’ll help out in any way you can: circulating articles PW (peoplesword.org), sharing memes, joining a car caravan, making a phone call, helping a comrade or friend in need. It can also mean you are able help build a coalition to fight this crisis as it is affecting people at the local level. 

Can you sign and circulate this pledge? That’s one place to start! This issue, along with the November election, may be the most important struggle of our lives!!

The following is background information relating to the proposal offered here. The Unemployment Councils of the USA represent a nationwide initiative taken by the CPUSA in 1930 in response to widespread and growing suffering among working people everywhere. Unemployment that year exceeded 25 percent of the workforce.

Forbes Magazine – not one bit left-leaning – on May 10 said that, “the adjusted unemployment rate is really closer to 20 percent.” In other words, we are returning to 1930. 

How did unemployment councils work? We reproduce the introductory section of a 20-page document from 1932 that outlines purposes and methods. It was published as a mimeographed pamphlet.  

The title is:“Fighting Methods and Organization Forms of the Unemployed Councils: A Manual for Hunger Fighters.”  

Role and Program of the Unemployed Councils.

The Unemployed Councils base their program on a recognition of the fact that those who own and control the wealth and government are willing to allow millions to suffer hunger and want in order that their great wealth shall not be drawn upon for relief. We know that the living standards of employed and unemployed alike will be progressively reduced unless we organize and conduct united and militant resistance. We know that the amount and extent of relief which the ruling class can be compelled to provide depends upon the extent to which the unemployed and employed workers together organize and fight. The Unemployed Councils, therefore, are the organs for determined, uncompromising struggle against all who are responsible for and all who assist in imposing upon the workers the miseries that result from mass unemployment.

In the effort to safeguard the masses from the effects of unemployment, the Unemployed Councils organize and conduct the daily struggles for the following basic demands:

For Unemployment Insurance, Equal to Full Wages, For All Workers, Regardless of Race, Sex, Age, or Nationality Who Are Unemployed Through No Fault of Their Own. Unemployment insurance shall be entirely at the expense of the Federal and State governments and the employers. It shall be administered by the workers themselves.

For Immediate Adequate Cash Relief by the City, County, State and Federal Governments.

The struggle for immediate cash relief is also conducted against existing public and semi-public relief agencies and against individual and corporate large employers.

Free Rent, Gas, Light, Water, etc., to All Unemployed Workers. Reduced Rates and Rents for All Part Time Workers. 

No Evictions, Foreclosures, and Repossessions for Unemployed.

We refuse to regard the property rights of landlords, bankers, credit merchants, and public utility corporations as more sacred than the right of workers to a home and to belongings which they toiled for years to acquire

The rest of this revealing document may be read here: http://www.marxisthistory.org/history/usa/groups/ucouncils/1932/0000-ncuc-fightingmethods.pdf

We conclude this note on unemployment councils by urging readers to look at Bruce Bostick’s article “Is it time to think about Unemployed Councils?” It appeared in People’s World on April 24.  Bostick begins: 

“Unemployed Councils cropped up across the country in the 1930s during the Great Depression and again in the 1980s after the mass layoffs in the steel industry. I was a part of the effort to start up such a council in Lorain, Ohio.

“Our Lorain Communist Party club played the key role in establishing and running a storefront coalition grouping, the Unemployed Crisis Center, that won benefits for workers and positively affected how organized labor and public officials treated the unemployed. We were able to concretely help thousands of unemployed workers and, as a side benefit, we recruited new folks to the CPUSA. …”