Millions of workers worldwide bristled with anger when they heard that French President Emmanuel Macron — a multimillionaire former investment banker — told Le Parisien in a Jan. 4 interview that he intended to “piss off” all those who remain unvaccinated, calling them “irresponsible and unworthy of being considered citizens.”
Using crude language, he added, “We need to tell them from Jan. 15, you will no longer be able to go to the restaurant. You will no longer be able to go for a coffee, you will no longer be able to go to the theater. You will no longer be able to go to the cinema.” Some 4 million French adults are unvaccinated.
From the millions of French working-class yellow vest protesters who marched weekly in 2019, forcing a rise in the minimum wage and other concessions from the Macron government, to those in the U.S. who Hillary Clinton famously dismissed as a “basket of deplorables,” Macron’s disdain for working people and the challenges they face was all too familiar.
Under a new law proposed by Macron, approved by the National Assembly and expected to pass the Senate, negative COVID-19 tests will no longer be accepted to enter many public venues and to ride long-distance trains or buses. Everyone over 16 years old will now have to show that they are fully vaccinated, including a booster shot.
Government mandates, like those pushed by Macron and by President Joseph Biden, are an assault on basic democratic rights. The last thing workers need is more edicts from the capitalist rulers telling them what they can and cannot do.
Of course, that doesn’t mean working people don’t have an interest in maximum vaccination. It means we can’t trust the government to do it. Our unions need to take the lead in educating and winning workers to see the proven safety and effectiveness of the shots and get vaccinated and boosted, and to organize centers where this can be done.
The growing number of strikes that marked 2021 show the determination of working people to stand up to the bosses and fight for better wages, work schedules, cost-of-living increases and more workers control over production and safety. We need to be at work, standing together to fight, including for health care that is accessible, affordable and good quality. Vaccinations are part of this fight.
In the U.S., the Supreme Court is weighing the legality of a regulation introduced by Biden that would require a vaccine mandate for companies with more than 100 workers. If upheld, it would affect 84 million workers. In the meantime, the Democrats and Republicans help private for-profit bosses make a killing off the COVID-19 business, while workers have to check to see if their children’s schools or child care are open, if their buses are running and stand in long lines in the cold for a COVID-19 test in order to go back to work.
The capitalist rulers testing racket
The capitalist rulers in Washington passed the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act in 2020, which allows, with virtually no supervision, anyone to offer rapid antigen tests, the same kind you can buy over-the-counter in a pharmacy — if you can find them in stock. And Washington politicians also voted that insurance companies were compelled to pay whatever these outfits charged them.
Some of the biggest profit-hungry thieves in this racket are the nation’s hospitals. A 2021 study by the Peterson Center on Healthcare and Kaiser Family Foundation found hospitals charged from $20 to $1,419 for a test, not including additional fees for “specimen collection” — pushing a swab up your nose — that ranged from $18 to $240.
But the biggest scammers are the popup testing sites. GS Labs, which set up shop as a tester in October 2020 and now operates in seven Midwest and Northwest states, used to focus on car dealerships and car washes. They charge $380 for a rapid antigen test made by CareStart that costs $24 for a two-pack at RiteAid.
“Our healthcare system is well-acquainted with the concept of making a profit from diagnostic testing,” Joshua Sharfstein, vice dean for public health practice at Johns Hopkins told Consumer Reports. “When tests are scarce, and their use is not directed by public health authorities, the price in the private sector is likely to rise.”
And even the big outfits have long delays in sending out results. CityMD, which runs for-profit urgent care centers in New York and New Jersey, admits it is averaging five to seven days to deliver the more accurate PCR test results.
There is an alternative
So while the Macrons and Bidens look down their nose at working people, and delight in ordering us around, they’ve helped whip up a COVID hysteria and unleashed a capitalist money machine that robs us blind.
And they’ve hoarded vaccine supplies for the imperialist powers, leaving the peoples of the semicolonial world to wait. According to the World Health Organization, only 10% of people in those countries have been vaccinated as of this month.
In Cuba — where workers and farmers drove out the capitalists 63 years ago, then carried out a socialist revolution — medical care is a human right, instead of a highly profitable business. Today Cuba has one of the highest vaccination rates, one of the lowest death rates from COVID-19 and there is no mandate, no one was forced to get a shot.
Instead, mass organizations, including the neighborhood-based Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, the Federation of Cuban Women, student groups and unions, organized to carry out millions of visits, every day for months, to make sure everyone knew what precautions to take and that everyone who needed medical care got it.
None of the highly effective vaccines developed by Cuba are produced for profit. The country has sent millions of doses to aid other countries and helped Iran begin its own production of the vaccine. Cuba is the only government in the world that has sent medical brigades to 40 countries, from Italy and the Persian Gulf to Latin America and Africa, to fight COVID-19.
This example shows what is possible when workers and farmers take political power into their own hands; it’s an example of the road forward for working people around the world.