image of a house's front entrance, above the walkway is a white banner that reads "rent strike" in black spraypaint. On one of the columns near the entryway there is a red sign which is unreadable from this distance

The Coronavirus, the Depression, and the Condition of the Working Class

The Canadian state and its entire imperialist project is in a general state of crisis. While this crisis may have been accelerated by the current Coronavirus pandemic, its root lies in the capitalist system itself of which Engels, one of the greatest leaders the working-class has ever produced, said “In every crisis, society is suffocated beneath the weight of its own productive forces and products, which it cannot use, and stands helpless, face-to-face with the absurd contradiction that the producers have nothing to consume, because consumers are wanting.” While the Imperialist ruling class attempts to lie and frame this crisis as entirely the consequence of the Coronavirus pandemic, the truth is this crisis, like all others, is rooted in capitalism’s tendency toward overproduction. Capitalism had just exited its last global crisis of 2008, as the current crisis hit proving Engels’ thesis that “[capitalism’s] economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every 10 years.” Even the capitalists’ own economists have been predicting a depression for months showing the hollowness of the capitalists’ lie that the virus is the root of the crisis.

This crisis is bound to be deeper and more widespread than the last major crisis that began in 2008 with the unemployment rate more than doubling itself from before the crisis as 1.5 million workers have already been laid off. There is no doubt that the Coronavirus is a serious issue for the working-people of the world, but we as revolutionary youth and students must recognise that our enemies remain the same: Capitalism, Imperialism, and Settler-Colonialism and not be blinded by the lies of the ruling-class that we must unite as one regardless of class against the virus as has been discussed in the Revolutionary Communist Party’s statement on the virus.

Working-class students are being affected especially hard by this crisis. While many schools were slow to respond to the spread of the Coronavirus initially, every major university across the country has now closed its doors and moved classes online. While these actions have undeniably helped curb the spread of the virus, they have also severely disadvantaged working-class students many of whom have already been struggling to afford the cost of tuition. While most students from capitalist backgrounds are easily able to make do with this change, many working-class students are struggling with these changes. The sudden shift to online classes leaves those working-class students who may not have access to computers at home or internet connections sufficient for the online transition in a very difficult place where they will be forced to pay more than they can afford for their already overpriced tuition. The transition to online classes has also been accompanied by a drop in the quality of education widening the already massive gap between students and teachers. Many schools have even realised that the quality of education has dropped massively and have offered academic concessions such as pass/fail options on grades and late withdrawal from courses. However, these concessions do not go far enough for the working-class.

The most obvious effect of this depression that most workers are facing are the massive layoffs and cut hours. This affects the working-class’ ability to afford basic necessities like food and housing and is the root of many of the issues working-class youth and students are facing during this crisis. The state is trying heavily to portray this as the result of the virus alone while hiding the truth of the matter which is that the closing of the job market and the current economic depression are both necessary results of the capitalist system. While capitalist students may take a small hit in not being able to find a job immediately, they will not be affected as intensely as the workers whose chance at even finding menial labour has now been shut off almost completely. The old state’s attempts to provide aid have been complete failures with as many as 700, 000 workers being ineligible for EI benefits or the newly announced federal emergency funding with working-class students especially being ignored as their interests have not even been addressed by the federal government.

Working-class students have also seen their housing come under attack. Some university residences have forced students out of their homes entirely. The University of Concordia’s response has been especially bad issuing an eviction notice to students with just four days-notice. Working-class students living off campus are facing housing difficulties as well as many workers are unable to pay their rent due to mass lay-offs. Many working-class students live paycheque-to-paycheque to begin with and with the loss of hours many are unable to pay their rent leading to a large amount of evictions. The old state has been slow to respond to this national housing crisis and in many provinces such as Ontario the old state has explicitly sided with the landlords in order to ease evictions. In B.C., a province led by the NDP-Green government, the old state failed to offer any aid for April with Premier John Horgan saying of the minimal housing aid passed by the government that “We can’t guarantee it will be in their pockets by April 1, [Tenants] have a relationship with your landlord. Let’s hope that they’re good relationships, and you’re going to have to find a way to work this out together.” While landlords and capitalists have their housing secure during this crisis the working-class are being forced to fend for themselves as the old state makes its position clear as an organ of class warfare against the workers.

Students graduating this year will be graduating into an economic depression. This will exacerbate the already bad situation that exists for working-class students in Canada which can be read about in greater detail in our political report or the student section in the Partisan’s electoral boycott issue. Businesses across the country are closing their doors and the old state’s slow response means that many graduating working-class students will be left jobless and without any source of income. While students coming from capitalist backgrounds will largely be fine during this depression and can rely on their families and the aid of the old state, the same is not true of working-class students who have nowhere to turn.

As a result of the mass closure of businesses, many students’ who require placements and coop programmes are unable to obtain their required hours. Some programmes designed for more capitalist or professional students that allow work from home are still available but for many working-class students especially those attending technical schools and colleges this is not an option and they are being left stranded with no way to go forward as a result.

The old state will never stand up for the workers against the capitalists, it is up to working-class organisations like the Revolutionary Student Movement to agitate, educate, and organise the working-class especially at times of crisis. Around the country working-class youth and students are clamouring for action. For this reason, the Revolutionary Student Movement is calling for the organisation toward full tuition refunds for this past semester. Working-class students are not getting what they have already overpaid for and the universities are not providing for the fact that many working-class students are unable to keep up with the drastic changes resulting from the online transition. Working-class students must fight for full refunds in the face of being overlooked by the universities. The Revolutionary Student Movement must also recognise that the struggle against landlords has quickly become one of the working-class’ main concerns and join in this struggle to organise working-class tenants into unions and toward rent strikes.

FIGHT FOR A FULL TUITION REFUND!

ORGANISE TOWARD A RENT STRIKE!

LONG LIVE THE REVOLUTIONARY STUDENT MOVEMENT!

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