DSA San Francisco has released a statement in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and attendant economic recession that we believe to be on the horizon. Read our full platform of policy demands and organizational initiatives here.
The COVID-19 pandemic is not just the defining crisis of the Trump administration, but a thundering condemnation of the miserable state of American institutions of health, welfare, and politics.
DSA SF recognizes the need for a militant response to this crisis, not just in the near term as our economic system teeters on the brink of collapse but in the long term as we struggle to rebuild a society that is more just, equitable, and conducive to human survival. We are concerned not only with the near-term health risks for a great number of people who live and work in San Francisco, but the ways in which an impending recession threatens our livelihoods and stability. This is a critical inflection point in the trajectory of American history, and the direction we go from here is uncertain. However, we see the potential for several grave outcomes which are not mutually exclusive: the rise of hard-borders ecofascism, the retrenchment of capitalism and corporate consolidation via the imposition of new forms of social order, and a hasty return to the status quo which will endanger millions.
We propose an alternative path. This crisis shows the necessity of a total social transformation, not merely a return to business as usual under capitalism. The system that brought us to this point has no remedy for the problems it has created. Indeed, we see proposals at the local, state, and national levels that fail to directly address the primary public health crisis that precipitates the rest. Instead these time-limited, means-tested half-measures are designed to smooth over and prop up the inadequacy of capitalism with the underlying goal of ever-continuing economic growth: bailouts of big business, temporary extensions of unemployment benefits, temporary freezes on evictions, temporary housing for the homeless, and so on.
Many of these proposals exclude large portions of the population — contractors and freelancers, migrant and undocumented workers, workers at the margins in informal cash economies such as sex workers — or are coupled with giveaways to landlords, corporations, and banks. This is not enough. These proposals must be redesigned to provide comprehensive, immediate relief, and we must set a path towards a longer-term reshaping of our economy and society into one that is rooted in solidarity and the common good. To that end, we offer a platform for immediate Relief for All, coupled with an organizing approach that focuses on delivering these short- and long-term goals.
The shocks to the capitalist system that we have witnessed these past few weeks have shown us where its critical centers of power lie; we must organize around these centers with the intent of bringing them under the control of democratic, working-class institutions. At some point — likely sooner than is prudent — the machinery of capitalism will be forced back into high gear, and we must be ready to act. These long-term organizing projects will be centered around the various ways that capital structures society. We will need to organize in workplaces, in our neighborhoods, among the unemployed, and across international borders, for a people’s recovery from this crisis. And we will need to fight for long-term public investment in the future, applying the green new deal principle of “decommodifying survival” to our entire economic framework.
DSA SF has announced a platform that aims to protect the health and welfare of our fellow San Franciscans in our homes, communities, workplaces, and the world. This includes safe selves: we demand Medicare for All, widespread COVID-19 testing and the expedient development of a vaccine, the production and procurement of personal protective equipment (PPE), and a massive public investment in our frail, overburdened healthcare system.
It includes safe homes: all rent and mortgage payments must be suspended, not merely put on hold, all unhoused San Franciscans must be offered housing in vacant hotel rooms, and city resources must be devoted to helping people experiencing domestic violence during the shelter in place order. Additionally, DSA SF supports tenants on rent strike and people taking up residence in vacant properties.
This platform includes safety at work: essential workers must be given hazard pay, and the state of California should enforce AB5, ensuring that gig economy workers are treated and protected like other employees. We demand that Muni be operated safely for riders and drivers alike by making backdoor boarding standard and halting all fare collection and enforcement. DSA SF also stands in solidarity with workers taking strike actions at their workplaces who fail to adequately protect them from COVID-19, and we will promote and participate in strikes and boycotts to help workers win their demands.
We also need safe communities: We need a moratorium on all ICE raids and deportation proceedings, and demand the release of all detainees in ICE custody and the closure of immigrant detention centers. We also demand alternatives to police enforcement during the shelter in place and the closure of 850 Bryant, as well as a drastic reduction of California’s prison population, and an end to prison labor. And we demand the city build more handwashing stations and public restroom facilities to promote hygiene in public.
Lastly, we need to ensure that we have a safe world. COVID-19 is a worldwide pandemic that demands an international response. Therefore, we specifically call on our representatives in congress–Representative Jackie Speier, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris–to end US sanctions on all foreign nations, and to denounce the belligerent saber-rattling campaign against Venezuela.
In addition to these demands, DSA SF recognizes the need for long-term organizing work that will build working-class power during the upcoming economic downturn. We will need new areas of focus in our labor organizing work: we need to prepare all workers for other peculiarities of the current moment, including “shock doctrine” tactics that are already being used to undermine public education. We should continue to organize unions, but we also need to assist workers in organizing independently around immediate demands in the very near term, especially if quarantines are lifted before it is truly safe to start working again. In light of mounting calls to “reopen” state economies from President Trump and his supporters, this seems likely. DSA National’s Democractic Socialist Labor Commission (DSLC) has announced an effort to that effect which we encourage all essential workers to join. In addition to the threat of COVID-19, we must prepare for the reality of historic unemployment, and organize councils of the unemployed to support, educate, and organize unemployed workers.
Similarly, we will need to show solidarity with tenants as the various programs preventing evictions come to an end. States and cities have announced eviction moratoriums, but even the most generous of these only prevent eviction during the crisis; at some point those moratoriums will end. We must promote and support all tenants’ efforts to stay in their homes, even after the state of emergency has ended. This means facilitating the formation of tenants associations in buildings, as well as among tenants of particular corporate landlords, and fighting for rent freezes, rent reductions, and rent suspensions.
This crisis is shaping up to be a truly historic moment, and socialists must rise to the challenges it brings. DSA SF will fight to protect and empower the working class through this crisis and whatever comes after. To find out more and get involved, join DSA and signup for one of our active organizing projects during COVID19. If you have any questions, please reach out to our COVID-19 Provisional Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.