Useful conclusions for the day after
14 June 2020 ‘HARAVGI’ newspaper
Article by Stefanos Stefanou, AKEL Political Bureau member
The coronavirus pandemic and the crisis which it has caused to public health, but also to other aspects of socio-economic activity, have highlighted some very important conclusions about political action with regards the day after the pandemic.
The first conclusion is related to the decisive role and catalytic intervention of the state in the socio-economic sphere. To confront the health and economic crisis, right-wing governments – and the EU itself – have been forced to revise the core of their neoliberal socio-economic policies, at least for the duration of the pandemic. The EU has relaxed its fiscal policy. Governments of EU member states have employed the state to save national health systems, which for more than forty years have suffered as a result of the dramatic cuts in state investments in the public health sector. Public hospitals have become the main centres for tackling the health crisis, while the medical and paramedical staff from scapegoats supposedly responsible for shortages and problems in public health systems now being hailed as heroes. This is what has happened in the EU, this is what happened in Cyprus too.
In the same way, governments have employed the state to support important sectors and companies for the national economy. For example, Germany supported ‘Lufthansa’ so that it wouldn’t go bankrupt, as did Italy with ‘Alitalia’, but also France, which is searching for ways to support ‘Renault’. Germany and Italy evidently recognize the importance of the existence of a national airline, as opposed to the Anastasiades-Alarm government, which in a targeted way closed down Cyprus Airways to serve specific private interests.
The state has also been employed to provide support to economically vulnerable groups of the population, which the pandemic has exposed to even greater dangers for their survival. The pandemic has revealed the big holes in the systems for social welfare and the protection of neoliberal policies which have restricted and dismantled the welfare state. This is the second key conclusion that is drawn from the developments in the period of the pandemic.
The employment and decisive intervention of the state has to a great extent shattered the ideological essence of neoliberalism that the market can provide solutions to everything. Resorting to the state to address the enormous problems is an indirect, but very clear admission that the market is incapable of protecting citizens, the economy and society, to offer alternatives and keep the perspective for tomorrow open.
This truth, which has been highlighted by the coronation crisis, will gain value if the neoliberal policies, which have fueled social inequalities, undermined the welfare state and sacrificed social solidarity for the sake of maximizing profit, are abandoned finally and forever. We do not have any illusions that the advocates of neoliberalism will change their policy and line. As soon as they feel the dangers to the system have passed, they will return with a vengeance.
There will be many and persistent issues at stake. One of the issues will be the defence and deepening of democracy and fundamental human rights, which, on the pretext of the pandemic and emergency measures, have been curbed.
Another key issue at stake concerns working people, who will be called upon to address the economic crisis. We also anticipate that the efforts on the part of big capital to take away rights and gains by invoking the crisis will intensify.
The maintenance and further strengthening of the state’s role in economic and social policy will again be at stake. It is expected that big capital, with the contribution of neoliberal governments and parties, will seek to restrict the role of the state and to once again return to the logic that “markets and the private sector can do better”. However people know now from their own bitter experience – and they should recall – that state intervention is indispensable in vital and strategically important sectors of socio-economic activity, so as to safeguard the public interest and the interests of society.
Intervention of Georgos Koukoumas, member of the C.C. of AKEL and the International Relations Department, at the Hearing “Palestine: What’s Next?” organized by GUE/NGL2015-07-1
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