Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature
Easing into a New Normality of the Crisis
by Lisa Becker, Alex Demirivic & Horst Kahrs
Monday Jan 4th, 2021 8:17 AM
With the intertwining of the Corona and economic crises, massive distribution struggles are already looming. Society, in a collective effort to prevent illness, has downsized its economic activity. This collective decision must not serve to enrich a few. The radical taxation of the great fortunes is an indispensable moment to face the Corona crisis.
By Lia Becker and Alex Demirović
[This article published in June 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, Gelockert in eine neue Normalität der Krise. Teil III « Zeitschrift LuXemburg (]

With regard to the ever-expanding relaxation resolutions, despite many differentiated contributions to the discussion, two conflicting positions have often faced each other in the left-wing discussion so far: some call for a consistent containment of the epidemic through governmental measures and collective solidary action in everyday life. They accuse government policy of not being consistent enough in containing the epidemic and of putting health protection before profit interests. Much of this is true: health protection for all people is not a primary goal of government action in capitalist societies, but the promotion of capital accumulation and competitiveness is. Nevertheless, the criticism is so truncated that it almost becomes false again. Often the advocacy of a long lock-down follows from this position. At the beginning of the crisis, there were also leftist advocates of harsh exit bans (which is different from the exit restrictions imposed in Germany) or even the internment of all infected people. Sometimes this position is combined with a kind of revolutionary transitional program: the economy should be shut down except for a few sectors necessary for the immediate supply of the population - combined with demands for the socialization of key sectors. It is unclear, however, how these and a crisis-related transformation to a socially just crisis economy are to be implemented in a few weeks (!) under the current balance of power.

The other pole of the left-wing debate primarily criticizes violations of fundamental rights, the dismantling of democracy and authoritarian state policies. It makes a difference whether a complex discussion about proportionality and democratization of state public health policy is conducted under conditions of an unknown and rapidly spreading pandemic - or whether state containment policy is completely rejected in the name of freedom and fundamental rights. The latter is represented above all by people who consider the Corona virus to be comparatively harmless. Ignorance and egoism ("it won't affect me") are at work here, but also a truncated, liberal concept of freedom (freedom as the absence of state coercion), and not infrequently also a masculinist attitude that puts individual assertion before collective concern and solidarity.

Without a doubt, curfews, closures of businesses and social gathering places are serious encroachments on fundamental rights. Therefore, these measures must always be democratically discussed and put to the test of proportionality. Elements of exceptionalism (restriction of parliaments and fundamental rights; reduction of the scope of social opposition, etc.) have become part of the "normal" exercise of power in the increasingly crisis-ridden neoliberalism of the last decade. They can also be found in the current crisis management: important decisions are made in talks and negotiations between the heads of the federal and state governments together with a crisis team. Parliament is under high pressure and has little opportunity for detailed discussion and control. But in Germany, it has neither removed itself from the decision-making process (as in Switzerland), nor has it been turned off cold (as in Hungary).

It is important to strengthen critical public spheres and monitoring of crisis management at the various levels (health care, labor relations, domestic violence, democracy), as is being pursued by numerous left-wing, feminist or other civil society organizations. An important point of orientation must be: slowing down and containing the epidemic is urgently necessary and not congruent with authoritarian statehood.

Against this background, a cautious opening seems to us to make sense in principle. For the capitalist economy consists not only of the exchange-value and profit side, but also of the use-value and material side. No society, according to Marx, can afford to suspend its basic economic functions even for a few weeks. Today's capitalist centers are certainly richer than those in Marx's time. Nevertheless, it can be assumed that a lock-down of more than four months could hardly be sustained. What is at stake here is not profits but social reproductive contexts, the supply of essential goods, and concrete material labor in production and care work. For example, many goods and foodstuffs are imported, which cannot easily be dispensed with for supply. Therefore, from a socio-ecological perspective, it is important to criticize the prevailing neoliberal export model and to bring alternatives into the discussion. However, it would be a dangerous oversimplification to confuse crisis-ridden declines in the export industry under existing economic and political power relations with a - sensible and urgent - contraction of socially and ecologically destructive sectors such as the automotive, armaments and security industries. It should also be borne in mind that those producing goods for European needs would also be even more massively affected by a prolonged shutdown than is already the case.

We must be clear that there cannot and will not be a reasonable coordination of different rationalities and interests with each other under the given, capitalist conditions. For collective interests in survival and a better life, for individual interests and reasons of social development, it is necessary to go beyond capitalism. It is a fetter for the development of those energies, that knowledge and those cooperations that are necessary for the solution of the big problems that the globally socialized humanity is facing today. The challenge for the social left is to develop a different rationality aimed at changing social relations, overcoming the social crisis, the care crisis, the economic crisis, and the climate crisis, and to work to build a new collective will for emancipatory change, that is, a new hegemony.

As leftists, we must try to prevent concern for Corona from displacing other suffering from social relations in crisis and keep pointing to the interconnections of class, racist, patriarchal and heteronormative, imperial and ecologically destructive social relations. However, the relations connected with the social division of labor, the state, the hegemonic forms of knowledge cannot be overcome easily and quickly in the context of the crisis management of an epidemic. This is also the reason why some emergency programs, written with a revolutionary gesture, are a quick fix. Our conviction is that a collective reflection and a social discussion about a socialist governmentality are urgently needed. For otherwise, too much space is given to an attitude of mere doubt about "the science" or "the politics" - space for overpowering feelings of threat, dangerous ignorance, or conspiracy ideologies.

A socialist governmentality assumes no single interest, but is an effort to free interests from their ties to relations of domination, and to ensure the common self-preservation of all, so that no one is left behind. It is about people, their work, being able to coordinate their comprehensive needs and interests freely and according to considerations other than survival in the markets of capital, labor, education or housing. At the center of this rationality is social cooperative work in all its respects and the satisfaction of needs for all.

In pandemic times, this means equal security in medical care and health protection, in food and housing. Only when it would be guaranteed that all can be safe, and the burdens are fairly shared by all, can there be rational, patient decision-making, different proportionalities between different needs, points of view and goals.

For this, democratic coordination mechanisms are needed that allow the different needs and concerns to be brought into the decisions. The knowledge of how people live and survive in this crisis and in which everyday struggles they are involved is central for an analysis with emancipatory intent. Not least because of this, a different organization of knowledge is needed. To engage in meaningful and partisan discussion of "at-risk" groups and the proportionality of interventions to human rights would require a comprehensive, intersectional class analysis of health threats and access to health care that encompasses more than infection control. Such analyses are being developed by critical public health researchers. However, the federal government's crisis team is not acting on the basis of a plurality of epidemiological and interdisciplinary medical research approaches or critical health and education and social science. What is needed for the immediate management of the pandemic is interdisciplinary and intersectional, global research involving epidemiologists, public health researchers, medical doctors, feminist nursing scientists, sociologists of work, family researchers, economists and administrative scientists, and many others who would not be limited by intellectual property rights and would work in competition against each other. But this knowledge would not be needed as a technocratic contribution to the management of people, instead these knowledge processes would have to be democratized. This touches on questions such as the character of epidemiological, natural and social scientific recommendations and authority arising from them; on misorientations in medical and pharmaceutical research; on the mechanisms of a more sustainable and socially just protection against crises (such as the foreseeable shock crises in the social relation to nature); on the meaning of the transformation discussions that have been going on for years in the social movements and the left. Scholars of the Alice-Salomon-Hochschule in Berlin have positioned themselves in this direction.[1] Such a process would also have to involve care workers and employees of health offices and social work, workers in "system-relevant" areas, parents, educators or teachers. Democratic participation bodies at all levels should also be considered - elected health councils, as already proposed in Germany in the context of the Spanish flu (cf. Spinney 2020, 282).

In an emancipatory, socialist governmentality, different goals and a different relationship between them would thus come into play than in a purely medical, epidemiological, economic, or etatist-administrative rationality: health protection for all and the avoidance of traumatization of individuals by everyday concerns. The solidarity of the medical and care workers, of the workers in the sectors necessary for the care of the population, of the unpaid carers who put their health at risk for others, should become a starting point for a different distribution and radical democratization of the social division of labor. It is about collective care and the provision of what is necessary for life; about the preservation of the social production apparatus, which at the same time must be reoriented in a needs-oriented and socio-ecological way. Research into the development and spread of pandemics, antibody tests, medicines and vaccines would have to be organized and expanded in a way that is oriented toward the common good.

From our point of view, it would make immediate sense to publicly promote a political-ethical, solidary approach, as it has developed, among others, in the heterogeneous gay-lesbian, queer movement in the context of the AIDS crisis: It is about taking protective measures for oneself also in the awareness of protecting others (cf. Schaffar 2020). It is about rejecting capitalist cost-benefit calculations and the normalization of crises through a hegemonic construction of "risk groups" and marginalized parts of the population.[2] In this context, the question of solidarity arises comprehensively, "indivisibly" and at the same time as a struggle for the improvement of survival conditions and living conditions, for the distribution of income and security, access to important infrastructures such as health and housing.

People from "risk groups" must not be forced to choose between their jobs and their health. As long as the epidemic has not (regionally) dried up (very low risk of infection, even in public transport) or an effective vaccine has not been developed, they need protection: in addition to occupational safety measures and special protection against dismissal, there is a need for the right to self-protection, i.e. to be able to stay at home with security in justified cases. An emancipatory proportionality of the fight against the pandemic includes health protection at the workplace, protection of the risk groups and social security for all (including legalization of illegalized migrants, cf. Painemal/Schultz/Jungwirth 2020) as well as the expansion and social design of emergency daycare and school care.

Keeping distance and contact restrictions - but no police-monitored curfews and socially unjust sanctions (such as for first-time violations of distance regulations);
Explicit guarantee of freedom of assembly with spacing regulations;
At-risk groups must not be forced to work and must be provided with social protection;
"Keeping a distance" must not be a privilege: legalization of undocumented people, reception of refugees, decent and safe housing for all;
Cushion care crisis: collective emergency infrastructures, reduction of working hours and wage replacement benefits for all who take on child-rearing and care work;
Social and cultural infrastructure must remain open with spacing arrangements, emergency operations and financial support;
Daycare and school emergency care with social priorities and smaller groups. More staff means better learning conditions and better infection control.
Better pay for the work needed to maintain care and infrastructure. Instead of home offices for employees and health risks for workers*: distribute necessary work more equitably;
Expansion of public research, the results of which are accessible to the general public;
Democratization of knowledge, crisis management and organization of work through committees/councils;
Global equitable access to protective clothing, medicines and vaccines.
Hospitals must be organized as public critical infrastructure; privatization must be rolled back. The system of flat rates per case and profit orientation must be ended. In the health sector, there must be a change of direction toward preventive care and fee-free care. There is an urgent need to hire more staff in hospitals and nursing and to significantly increase the wages of employees; solidarity in the Corona crisis also means advocating the right to health care everywhere (cf. TNI 2020), for equal availability of protective clothing, medicines and vaccines, for investments in health infrastructures based on solidarity (cf. Medico international 2020). Preparations for further waves of this pandemic as well as for future pandemics are necessary. Therefore, precautions must be taken to ensure adequate care for infectious patients and better cross-border coordination and mutual aid.

With the intertwining of the Corona and economic crises, massive distribution struggles are already looming. A great absurdity of the current crisis is that there is talk of "debt" and by neoliberal forces of a continuation of austerity policies "after the crisis." Society, in a collective effort to prevent illness, has downsized its economic activity. This is the decision to live off previous labor contributions or in anticipation of common future labor contributions, because otherwise the health and lives of many people would have been at stake. This collective decision must not serve to enrich a few. A society cannot become indebted to itself, but only to those who powerfully assert property titles at the expense of all others. Therefore, the radical taxation of the great fortunes is an indispensable moment to face the Corona crisis.

[1] Scholars* from the fields of social work, health, education and educational science from the Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences have made proposals for an interdisciplinary, democratic crisis management oriented towards emancipatory goals in a comprehensive statement:

[2] Act Up- Activist and epidemiologist Gregg Gonsalves sees parallels between Trump's handling of the Corona crisis and Reagan's necropolitics in the AIDS crisis - and the difference that the Corona crisis particularly affected marginalized, precarious, and racist parts of society, but tended to threaten everyone. Medicair4All and improving health conditions become conditions for successful
Lia Becker works at DIE LINKE as a research assistant to Bernd Riexinger. When time permits, she focuses on the possible connections between class theory, queer feminism, and intersectionality.

Alex Demirović is a philosopher and social scientist and one of the most interventionist left intellectuals in this country. He has taught at the universities of Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, among others, is chairman of the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's Scientific Advisory Board, a fellow at the Foundation's Institute for Social Analysis, and a founding member of this journal.

By Horst Kahrs
[This article published in June 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Just over six months have passed since the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus was discovered in humans and spread rapidly in a pandemic manner. In Europe, the first phase of exponential spread appears to be largely over. The number of new infections is low. However, many aspects of the virus, such as the modes of transmission, the probabilities of infection, or the exact mode of action in the human body, are still unknown, as are the number of undetected infections and thus the actual death rates. A vaccine to protect against infection and a drug to successfully treat an infection do not yet exist. Until both are available in sufficient quantities, the pandemic will remain present, at least in the form of regionally high infection numbers, the global threat of a possible "second wave," and in the form of a critical resurgence of newly infected persons in this country.

With the virus, the greatest uncertainty spread, putting politics and everyday life in a state of emergency. Politics, especially government policy, had to weigh up, decide and act in the face of a high degree of ignorance, where neither alleged "constraints" nor expert advice could provide sufficient certainty about the short-, medium- and long-term effects of this or that strategic orientation in dealing with the pandemic. To an unprecedented degree, policy became experimental. At the same time, expectations increased that government policy would provide general rules with which to counter the danger and protect the population as far as possible. With a demoscopic increase in trust in those in power and a large measure of consensus, citizens reacted to the invisible virus with drastic changes in behavior. This dynamic interrelationship has already passed through several phases, in each of which the constellations between "everyday life" and "politics," between different population groups and the dominant discursive imprints have shifted. With its traditional questions, opinion and attitude research has so far been insufficiently successful in mapping changes in everyday consciousness and its interpretations of the crisis. What it will be like "after the pandemic" is open, but lines in the interpretation of the crisis are emerging that may be significant for the coming conflicts in the political field.[1]

The political and everyday handling of the pandemic can best be described in the image of an experiment with numerous unknowns, whereby the experimental arrangement itself has an experimental character and the participants are both subject and object. Since Pentecost, Germany has been in the fifth phase of the social experiment, and it remains to be seen how many phases will follow.

In the first phase, belief and hope dominated that, as with the previous new virus species, it would only be an event with "the others" in the "far, Asian East" or in "black Africa". Moreover, according to the responsible ministers, our health care system is well established and emergency plans are in place. Presumably, however, it was a matter of a completely normal flu course. In this phase, the cancellation of strong beer festivals and carnival sessions met with little understanding.

The second phase began when the first cases became known in Europe and Germany. The "Gangelt/Heinsberg" case showed that the virus was in the country. The suspicion grew that this time it could be different. The district administrator of Heinsberg announced massive restrictions on public life; the proportion of those who felt that not enough was being done by the authorities to protect the population rose from one tenth at the beginning of February (calendar week 6) to over a quarter of the adult population by the beginning of March (calendar week 10). By the middle of the month, public calls for "tougher measures" by the state widened. The first computer simulation models of possible exponential progression and potential deaths emerged. The images from northern Italy helped the models become impressively threatening. At the same time, deficiencies and shortages in the health care system - protective equipment, ventilators - became apparent and widely communicated. Emergency plans without emergency equipment are worth only half. Fear and anxiety, the opinion knowledge of facing an incalculable threat, grew. "Risk groups," especially "the elderly," were identified as supposedly safe. Calls for governmental protective measures led to a federal shutdown contest that went as far as intra-German entry bans. This phase ended with a publicly disseminated scenario paper from the Department of Homeland (Protection) Affairs that reckoned with several million deaths in a worst-case scenario. Phase two prepared the ground for the broad acceptance and success of the next phase.

Phase three was characterized by unprecedented abrupt and deep state intervention in democratic, social, economic and private life. Overwhelming popular approval and support were flanked by a speech by the Chancellor urging concerted efforts toward one goal: flatten the curve to prevent health care system overload as in Italy. The horror scenario was to be prevented from occurring by containing the virus to a level that could be borne by the health system and practicing everyday "living with the virus" until targeted drug treatment and possible preventive vaccination were available. The choice of this strategy revealed what politics is: deciding situations where there are no professional certainties, where information changes daily, where interests and emotions are highly divergent. Motives and tangible goals were communicated, social learning promoted. Trust in those in power skyrocketed in the polls; the executive's measures received parliamentary blessing across party lines. With few exceptions, the massive restrictions on everyday life were freely complied with. The public media reported extensively on the "Tafeln" and the importance of school lunches for lower-income families, on impending problems with rent payments - reports that mobilized potentials for solidarity, but always suggested that "others" had it worse. The behavioral changes, closures and restrictions produced the hoped-for effect. But it had remained unclear what conditions would have to be met for a rollback, how and by what it would be measured that "our health care system" would withstand the pandemic. This made possible a shift in discourse that accelerated the end of the third phase: with the concept of loosening, an image spread according to which, step by step, the state would have to loosen its hard stranglehold, the protective custody into which it had taken everyday, social and economic life.

The fourth phase crept up even before Easter. The narrow focus on the health care system widened. Other interests, especially those of small and medium-sized businesses, restaurateurs, hoteliers and shopkeepers, now found their way more strongly into public reporting. The battles over interpretation and distribution increased. The federal and state governments fell out of step again, and with the first announcements of plans to lift individual restrictions and bans, a federal easing championship began. In view of the absence of a worst-case scenario, undesirable consequences and side effects on a democratic, economic, social and psychological level were now publicly discussed. The focus was on general concern for "the economy." In turn, applause and attention for the "system-relevant" professions decreased. Prevented deaths were contrasted with deaths due to postponed surgeries and doctor visits. At the beginning of this phase, the president of the Bundestag warned that, firstly, according to the constitution, human dignity must be the vanishing point of all considerations and, secondly, that not everything should continue as before the crisis. With AfD and FDP, two parties recanted their original political stance and tried to surf on the "relaxation wave" by insisting on the "right of freedom" not to be dictated to by the state. "Hygiene" demonstrations against the "Corona measures" with variously motivated participants received a great deal of political media attention. Pandemic control was re-decentralized. The epidemic policy lost more and more the ability to communicate the considerations and motives behind its decisions. What logic do they follow, what is the point? Why are people allowed to go shopping again, but the schools remain closed? All these changes did not correspond to a noticeable change in the population's awareness of dangers: In the 13th week, 52% of those surveyed saw a danger to their own health; in the 22nd week, the figure was still 45%. Around one-sixth of respondents were still afraid of becoming seriously ill themselves. However, the strength of the fear of infection weakened in May: the proportion of those with "very great" fear decreased, while the proportion of those with "great" or "rather great" fear increased. By early June, a good half remained consistently convinced that "there will be a second Corona wave in the next few months."

Since Pentecost, we have now been living in the fifth phase, the beginning of a disparate day-to-day with SARS-CoV-2, testing rather indiscriminately what will go again. The number of people currently infected in Germany is less than 10,000, and the success in containment is creating more and more discursive space for the question of whether "it was all necessary." At no stage so far did more than one-fifth of respondents consider the government measures to be "excessive. But disappointment, despair and anger are growing because, for example, "school openings" that only take place on an hourly or daily basis do not provide the necessary relief; government aid measures are coming to an end, but "business" is not picking up again as hoped because restrictions and uncertainty persist; financial reserves have been used up, possible rent deferrals exhausted. The launch of an economic stimulus program signals that things are now to get going again, that the time for compensating for shortfalls is over. At the same time, everyday life with Corona demands a much higher degree of personal responsibility: everyone is expected to behave responsibly of their own free will, so that no renewed lockdown is necessary. Mouth-nose covering and distance rules are to be observed in a mixture of duty and commandment on one's own responsibility. Instead of an invisible virus that spreads invisibly, the focus is now on people who "carelessly" and "irrationally" "gamble away success", spread the virus again: "Baptist congregations" in Frankfurt, Bremerhaven and Western Pomerania; "extended families" in East Frisia and Göttingen, "ravers" on Berlin's Landwehr Canal - instead of "risk groups", public and private attention is increasingly directed at "endangerers", epidemiologically (super-)spreaders. More personal responsibility also means more decentralized and individualized considerations. Demonstrating together against "racism and police violence" and for the equal dignity of all people is balanced with health and life protection. The absolute reign of the pandemic is over, there are again first news broadcasts in which the word "Corona" does not appear. When and how the current phase will end, and what experimental arrangement will follow it, is an open question. In the week after Whitsun (week 23), two-thirds of respondents considered the "government Corona measures now in force" to be "just right" and one-sixth each to be "excessive" or "too weak." In the case of the first relaxations after Easter, more than one-third still found that there was "too much" or "too fast" relaxation.

The course of the social experiment "pandemic control" so far has reinforced and evoked interpretations and traces in everyday consciousness in some fields, it can be reasonably assumed, which will have a lasting effect on coming political struggles.

National distancing and national confidence building
The world is living through the largest acute crisis in living memory (which in many regions is "on top" of other crises) with the "Corona" pandemic almost in unison. National governments are responding to the spread of the novel virus with a high degree of concerted, yet uncoordinated, action. Let's stay in Europe: for all the differences, there was one striking commonality - the almost automatic reversion to national distancing. The nation-state asserted its elementary task of being able and willing to protect its own population or nationals against other nation-states. Reflexively, the Schengen area saw the return of barriers and border police. The virus that knows no borders did not threaten Europeans, but Italians, French, British, Germans, Poles, Norwegians. In the end, nation states will have "come through the crisis", some "better", others "worse". With the border closures, the governments fulfilled spontaneous hopes of being able to stop a supposedly external threat at the border, and they constituted national emergency communities. In an emergency, not just a war, people rally around their own flag: At the end of May, 37 % of respondents expressed less "trust" in the institutions of the European Union than at the beginning of the year (40 %). At the same time, trust in the work of the German chancellor jumped from 50% to 72% of respondents, and trust in the German government from 34% to 60%. And: Once again, we in Germany came through better than the others thanks to our better healthcare system and our economic reserves, which we can mobilize for aid and economic stimulus measures. With this interpretation, the conditions for a cooperative and solidarity-based policy are improving. But right now, the German government seems ready to take such a step in financial matters, as the entire EU is on the brink of collapse. How much additional funds will be made available to the EU that will not flow into national aid will be a central aspect of the coming distribution struggles with high right-wing populist potential. Beyond that, the nationalization of the pandemic also promotes pessimism about the future, especially among middle-aged and younger cohorts: can we still trust in the ability of nation-states to act cooperatively in the face of climate change? Hedonistic attitudes may also gain new raw material here.

Hope in the (all-)powerful state
In the financial crisis, the state stepped in as a rescue agency for ailing banks to avert the worst economic consequences. In the migration crisis, the (German) state refrained from closing borders and subjected parts of the state infrastructure and everyday life to a severe test of endurance. Now, in the Corona crisis, the state is making deep inroads into economic, social and personal life, the consequences of which - loss of income, loss of jobs, social and psychological strain on households and individuals - were and are unforeseeable. For the banking crisis, "greedy bankers" bore the responsibility. In the migration crisis, the state opted for humanity instead of closing borders, and none of the nationals was worse off because of it. The state's actions in the Corona crisis, however, are now creating millions of "people in need through no fault of their own". Those in need through no fault of their own can legitimately claim compensation from public funds. Ignoring these claims plunged the state, in this case the democratic system, into a deep crisis of confidence. However, trust in the performance and willingness to perform of state institutions is a crucial resource for coping with crises that are both foreseeable and unforeseeable and, in any case, highly incalculable. What is now still confidence in state regulation can quickly turn into further aversion, bitterness and anger. After all, the deep intervention in economic and social life is cushioned by a historically unique state aid program ("bazooka"), and a similar economic stimulus program ("boom") is supposed to lead the way out. The market regulates nothing, the state demonstrates financial omnipotence - What if it doesn't work? In general, expectations of regulatory and compensatory government action will grow: It worked with "Corona," why not here now? The collective state of shock is still holding, but it is already smoldering underneath: How can it be that suddenly hundreds of billions of euros are supposed to be available, when for decades it was said that there was no money for schools, swimming pools, nursing homes, etc.? And who is paying for it?

The crisis feels different - Social inequality, gender and class relations in the world of work
To date, there are only "soft" socio-demographic contours in the perception of crisis. Those under 30 were slightly below average in viewing the health threat as "very serious," those 50-59 above average, and women took the threat slightly more seriously than men. Respondents with low formal education were more likely to perceive the situation as "very serious" than respondents with high formal education (67% to 56%). Notable differences in threat perceptions by income class were not initially found. In a survey for the SINUS milieus at the end of March, it turns out that the threat was taken less seriously than average in the upper "conservative-establishment milieu" of the "classical establishment," the classical propertied and educated middle classes, as well as in the traditional "middle class" and in the lower milieus of the "traditional" and "precarious." In the liberal-intellectual milieu of the new educated middle class, in the young upper milieu of the "ambitious creative avant-garde" and in the "socio-ecological milieu" of the center, the situation was assessed more seriously. Thus, a horizontally divided pattern of perception emerged, as is familiar from attitudes toward "globalization."

One-third of respondents reported in the week before Whitsun that their daily lives would be restricted only to a limited extent, while almost two-fifths called the impact on their personal lives serious but reasonable. Serious personal restrictions, judged to be excessive, were particularly identified for the self-employed, freelancers* and lower-income groups: The lockdown creates an objective "proletarian" common ground between those whose incomes are low anyway and whose reserves are non-existent, and those whose self-employment relies heavily on daily turnover, the day's work - the crisis is existential in the shortest possible time, state assistance is eaten up or even non-existent. In the case of the self-employed, there is also the injured pride in self-employment: the state ruined my business.

Another dividing line is contoured along the place of work: the company outsourced to modern home-based work, the closed company with short-time work, and the company-based professions of basic care, social work, health, etc. The battle for modern digitalized home work seems to be particularly promising for the future, as it quickly becomes a new quality of work where the spatial and social prerequisites are lacking (daycare center, school, distribution of tasks based on partnership), and, on the other hand, saves operating and mobility costs as well as travel time and allows new "compatibility". For the immediate health care professions, the further processing of the crisis could result in a constellation that allows for improvements, especially in staffing and resources. In the case of the other "system-relevant" professions, cleaning ladies, geriatric nurses, cashiers, garbage collectors, public transport drivers, truckers, etc., the chances of more than a short-term increase in appreciation are poor. This is because a lasting improvement in wages and incomes would require a fundamental change in the wage hierarchy between unskilled and semi-skilled occupations, skilled occupations and academic degrees (with the exception of geriatric care), i.e., a narrowing of the gaps and thus a relative abandonment of the old and new academic strata in favor of a diverse, often migrant minority.

The future dynamics along the oldest line of conflict, the distribution of domestic and care work among the sexes, appear completely open. Just as "reconciliation" was actually always understood as a policy for women, it is now they who stay at home to a far above-average extent, take care of the children or, in addition to working at home, also take on domestic schooling. In a television interview, Jutta Allmendinger speaks of an abrupt relapse into the conditions of the old Federal Republic.

Daycare centers and schools as critical infrastructures
Considerable pressure for change lies on kindergartens and schools. Their closure made the deficiencies that had already accumulated before the crisis much more apparent. Since the beginning of government restrictions, a majority of respondents have always believed that not enough was being done to (open up) daycare centers and schools. This view is fed by sources independent of each other: Kitas and schools are firmly scheduled in the everyday life of (working) parents as institutions of care and provision, lunch far too often also for financial reasons. Schools are places of learning where social inequalities can be compensated for that are exacerbated in home schooling for both material and cultural reasons. At the same time, they are seen as a crucial instance for acquiring the basic access certificates for education, occupation and social status. 63% of parents with low formal education worried in April that their children would lose out in school, compared with 45% of parents with high formal education. Daycares and schools are social places for children's community: closure also puts a strain on children. 77% of parents in the Allensbach survey stated that their children suffer from the restrictions, 41% even speak of considerable suffering.

Emotional and psychological burdens are enormous
The emotional and psychological burdens associated with the pandemic and the defensive measures are enormous and their medium- and long-term effects are difficult to calculate. This is not just a matter of escaping into conspiracy narratives. It starts with the fear of going to the doctor's office or hospital because of the risk of infection. Initial figures point to significant "collateral damage" from delayed heart attacks, canceled surgeries, omitted cancer treatments, and more. The degraded dying in the isolation of hospitals and nursing homes - without the possibility of visiting relatives, without a farewell, without a funeral service - is also likely to leave a deep impression. The bans on visits to nursing homes have a similarly drastic effect on both sides. In addition to the prohibitions on contact, there are the measurable psychological burdens in the home as well as living in uncertainty with an "invisible enemy." For German society, there is no comparable event in the last seventy years that could be used to assess the consequences. It is true that the "Hong Kong flu" of 1968-70, the last global influenza pandemic that the older ones among us still remember, claimed around 40,000 lives in the old Federal Republic, but state and politics reacted completely differently at that time.

[1] The speculations in this essay are based on the results of the ARD-DeutschlandTrends (Infratest dimap) and the ZDF-Politbarometer (Forschungsgruppe Wahlen) from February to June 2020, as well as some "extras" from both institutes in the meantime. The "crisis barometer" of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation was taken into account, as well as results of a FORSA survey for ntv from the end of April and an Allensbach survey for the FAZ before Whitsun. Specifically, on the situation of parents and children, the survey by Infratest dimap for the Vodafone Foundation "Under Pressure" and an online survey for the German Youth Institute "Kindsein in Zeiten von Corona" were also taken into account. For a more political-economic analysis of current experimental politics, see the article by Lia Becker and Alex Demirovic: Gelockert in eine neue Normalität der Krise? Reflections on an emancipatory pandemic response, May 2020, on this website.

Horst Kahrs is a social scientist who works on the topics of classes and social structure, democracy and elections, and is employed at the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation's Institute for Social Analysis.

By Llanquiray Painemal Susanne Schultz and Michel Jungwirth

[This article published in June 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

"Good evening everyone! I would like to share with you the challenges I face as an undocumented woman in this global covid 19 pandemic. I lost my job after the restaurant I was working at closed. As an informal worker, that means there is no compensation for sudden termination. Without a formal employment contract, I have little bargaining power. I come from a poor background, from a household with a lot of debt. For me, this additional shock of the lockdown has extremely weakened my strength to cope with it as well. I have two sons and my parents are also dependent on me (they live in the country of origin, comment respect). No work means no money - and no money means no food, no medicine, and no funds for rent and other bills. I can probably survive another week or two, but I don't know what will happen in a month."

"Hi. I'm a Latina woman and I've been living here for almost three years. I am illegal and came here with my youngest son to have a better life and a better education for him. Unfortunately, when this pandemic broke out, I got badly sick, had bronchial problems. Since I've been here, I've been working all the time, cleaning apartments and taking care of babies. They kicked me out of the apartment I was living in because I was sick. Right now a friend of mine is helping me: she took me in and I'm sleeping on the floor in her living room with my little son. I am very worried and very scared about what is happening right now. Because I don't have any reserves. I hope very much that you will support us: We want to be legalized, we want to work, we want to be able to do something."[1]

These messages were sent to us by undocumented women from our network at the end of April. The occasion was the day of action #LegalizationNow on April 25, which we, the respect-Initiative Berlin and the alliance Solidarity City Berlin, organized together. The goal was to draw attention to the situation of illegalized persons, to once again stand up for the demand for legalization and to be able to provide practical support through a solidarity fund. We received an incredible number of solidarity photos from all over the world on that day and can now provide emergency aid for eight women from our network for a few months at a low, non-living wage level with the donations we received."[2]

With this text we present the current situation of illegalized migrants in Berlin and want to discuss starting points for political demands in times of the Corona crisis in connection with the day of action. Because we currently notice that the extreme aggravation of the crisis situation makes it possible more than usual to draw attention to the bad normality of illegalization. We hope that there is a chance that the small plants of the current solidarity grow and expand - towards a policy of legalization, towards a subsistence allowance for all, towards a right to good public health care for all, and also towards a different organization and distribution of care work.

But briefly about us: the respect initiative has been drawing attention to the situation of undocumented women in Berlin for more than 20 years, promoting self-organization, showing solidarity with them and providing them with concrete support. Most of the illegalized women come from Latin American and African countries. For several years, we have also been active in the Solidarity City Berlin alliance and, together with other groups, have been campaigning for equal and dignified access to health care and schooling for people without or with only precarious residence status in Berlin.

The current crisis situation we are experiencing in times of a global pandemic, the (partial) economic lockdown as well as a drastic shift in care work relationships hits illegalized women especially hard. And in this drastic intensification, it draws attention to a normality that is nothing new for illegalized women: the everyday fear of police checks; the lack of or, at best, precarious health care; the everyday economic insecurity and dependence on jobs in the catering industry and private households - and the absence of legal security, of protection against dismissal, vacation and sick pay. In addition, illegalized women are burdened with the care and responsibility for children and family members, both here and very often in their country of origin. In view of these exclusions and multiple burdens, they are often dependent on everyday solidarity, as experience has shown, mostly from those who are similarly affected or who have had this experience in the past.

The reasons why many people live illegally in Germany are manifold. Many of them were denied political asylum. Out of fear of repression in their countries, they decided to go underground. Others came as tourists and decided to stay here to work and help their families in their countries of origin. Many women try to build an independent life in Germany, sometimes to escape patriarchal and sexist conditions. The central cause of this situation is the inequality between the Global South and North. Just as many Europeans emigrated to Latin America in times of crisis, people today emigrate in search of a better life or flee oppression.

For decades, anti-racist, migrant, solidarity movements in Germany have repeatedly demanded a right to rights in order to fight against a central pillar of racist discrimination and exploitation: the systematic exclusion from social and civil rights in illegalization - be it in the long-standing campaign "no human being is illegal", be it in the "Society for Legalization" active in the early 2000s, be it in diverse self-organized migrant movements and protests. Nevertheless, at the level of state regulation in Germany, despite all these struggles, nothing has been improved for the hundreds of thousands who, despite their enormous expertise and "system relevance," are not considered "skilled workers" and for whom the (anyway minimal) class-selective openings of the immigration regime of recent years are irrelevant.

There are no cut-off date regulations or quotas of legalization as in other European countries. Individuals have to appear in hardship commissions as petitioners*, which only offer a perspective to a few. Or new opportunities arise due to biographical changes in their family relationships (such as dependent residence rights after marriage or the birth of a "German" child). In the long run, many have to settle into the extremely precarious and disenfranchised life as undocumented people.

In times of Covid-19, deportations are temporarily and partially suspended. But this does not change the fundamental threat posed to illegalized persons by the deportation regime. On the contrary, their freedom of movement is further restricted due to the massive and frightening police presence: Many undocumented people currently do not dare to go out on the streets for fear of being checked. Although the initial requirement for ID cards in Berlin was withdrawn, this does not change the basic fear and unease in the face of the many police officers and police cars that currently dominate the public image. Even without compulsory identification, the issue of racial profiling is an everyday reality for people affected by racism - especially in the so-called dangerous places, where the police can control as they please.

However, the worsening precarious situation of undocumented people in the pandemic crisis has also led to new initiatives. In the Left Party, it has been explored for some time whether a city ID card could be used to give illegalized people access to city services. On April 22, 27 members of the Left Party wrote an open letter to Chancellor Merkel and Interior Minister Seehofer, in which they advocate, among other things, a one-time financial aid for illegalized persons - furthermore, a deportation stop, a general amnesty for illegalized persons and, in particular, "to initiate a legalization for all people without residence in Germany" (Jelpke 2020). This welcome initiative thus advocates a cut-off date regulation, as has been the practice in other European countries in the past, and thus fortunately goes beyond a temporary crisis management only for certain (already registered) groups, such as the much-noticed emergency measure of the Portuguese government.[3] So far, however, little has been done to give this parliamentary initiative more political emphasis and to prevent it from remaining a flash in the pan. Here, it is not least up to the social anti-racist movements to use the new visibility in the current crisis situation to put the issue of legalization back on the political agenda and demand a solution based on solidarity. Due to criminalization, it is hardly possible for illegalized people to take to the streets en masse or to mount a public campaign on their own.

Illegalized people work mainly in the service sector. Migrants take on the domestic, care and nursing work that many people with better economic living conditions no longer do themselves and thus have time for their gainful employment. Undocumented migrants take care of children, pick them up from school, put them to bed when their parents go to the movies or to a party, clean houses, iron, cook in restaurants, clean hotels, or work in construction.

When isolation and social distancing became the new social priority during the pandemic, work-giving families stayed home. Schools and daycare centers were closed and illegal workers were no longer needed. Employers usually told care workers that they no longer needed their work for an indefinite period of time. The illegalized workers we know have almost all lost their jobs, and except for the one or other pittance (about 20 euros in an envelope at the last hour of work), they were released into contact suspension without any offers of support. In particular, the important source of income from babysitting and childcare is completely eliminated because of fears of contagion from the workers. The physically often harder hourly cleaning jobs still exist in part, but not to the extent that they are nearly enough to survive.

In addition to all this, there is the enormous burden placed on global care workers by the situation of their family members in their countries of origin. Right now, in many countries, they are particularly dependent on the support of family members in the global North. Often, not only the children depend on their income from cleaning and babysitting, but also other family members, such as the elderly parents. And right now, with often extreme curfews, many of the family members in the countries of origin are themselves losing their sources of income. "If we don't die because of Corona, we die because we starve," family members from El Alto in Bolivia, for example, shared.

In times of Corona, many contradictory and problematic developments in care work are evident simultaneously, and the question of "systemic relevance" raises much broader issues than are often discussed in public. After all, there is just relatively broad public criticism of the extreme retraditionalization of role patterns. It is primarily women whose labor capacities in households are extremely stretched when public childcare is discontinued. In contrast, the usual precarious outsourcing of this work to migrant workers, which is temporarily and partially reduced, hardly causes any public problems and deprives the still invisible care workers of their livelihood. Unlike the Eastern European care workers, many of whom have left the country, exacerbating the domestic care crisis, the women we network with remain here - and are left with nothing. Once again, the shuffling back and forth of this domestic and care work, so central to society and yet so devalued, appears to be the only option; a shuffling that takes place solely between unpaid and absolutely precarious work and, most importantly, between women - and, indeed, between women with different class backgrounds and different residency rights or different levels of exposure to racial discrimination. In our opinion, a real debate about "systemic relevance" would have to fundamentally include the question of how this work can be simultaneously upgraded, better paid, and redistributed. But then the debate about systemic relevance would also become a debate about systemic change.

Given the enormous difficulty of making a legalization campaign in Germany a success, it remains acutely our task to fight for elementary social rights even in illegality. As the women report in their audio messages, the health situation for illegalized people in Berlin remains extremely precarious - both general care and specific to COVID-19.

In recent years, we in the Solidarity City Berlin alliance have been advocating for an anonymized health card that would provide access to health care for all people without health insurance, including undocumented people in particular. Many years of struggle and follow up by Solidarity City just before the 2016 elections did result in the Red-Red-Green Senate establishing a clearinghouse to provide access to health care for people without health insurance. Unfortunately, however, this has remained highly bureaucratic and poorly organized: There has been little commitment to even publicizing the existence of the clearinghouse in the various communities. In addition, the applicants, who mostly came with acute health problems, sometimes experienced degrading interviews. At least something positive has happened in the times of Corona: The Senate has finally made a contract with the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians in Berlin, so that the Clearing House can now send people without papers to all Berlin family doctors, and not only to a few contract doctors. Nevertheless, the Clearing House remains a bottleneck, which has become even tighter under Corona conditions: Often, an appointment is only offered several weeks after a telephone request.

In addition, there is still a lack of reliable and detailed information on tests and treatments for illegal immigrants in case of a possible COVID-19 infection. Even now, at the end of May, coverage for the tests, which cost at least 60 euros, remains unclear, and if the person tests positive, he or she is reported. Although - according to the health authorities - this has no consequences under residence law for illegalized persons, it nevertheless stirs up fears among those affected because no detailed information is provided about how the data is handled.

Thus, even in Corona times, the vast majority of undocumented people in Berlin remain dependent on solidarity and charitable organizations - or go to doctors or hospitals only in extreme emergencies, if at all.

How is it possible to organize when it is so difficult to move and meet - and when the strength is dwindling, as the messages of our friends impressively describe? Especially the first weeks during the pandemic crisis in Germany were marked by despair and depression. Many of the undocumented women were completely isolated and developed anxiety and depression in an extremely nerve-wracking situation of uncertainty and distress. On the one hand, they have to be particularly protective of their health, because without health insurance or the possibility of being tested for COVID-19, they live particularly precariously. On the other hand, in this situation it is almost impossible to look for other jobs, and so many have to live with the daily worry of how they will pay their rent in the coming months - or where they could find further accommodation if they have already lost their shelters.

Slowly, however, networks of solidarity are re-emerging among themselves - and as is so often the case, it is first and foremost the women who are or have been in a similar situation who support each other.

In addition, there is a lot of willingness in our network to also work on political demands and to articulate them, as on the occasion of the action day #LegalisierungJetzt. But this is also expressed in the joint demands of Berlin grassroots organizations, in the protests against the situation in the camps of the campaign #leavenoonebehind or in the mobilizations against racist violence on May 8 under the keyword #entnazifizierungjetzt.

The central point of departure is the way the pandemic crisis exposes and exacerbates scandalous social inequalities - and yet lacks any state support. People without papers continue to not exist for the German state and remain invisible. Therefore, at the request of the illegalized women with whom we are in contact, we would like to call on all organizations, initiatives and people to work for the legalization of undocumented people. We demand a right to equal access to public health care for all people living in Germany, as well as livelihood security for all those who have partially or completely lost their jobs in the crisis, whether formal or informal. And we demand that labor rights apply and can be claimed regardless of residency status. We believe that in times when a lot of responsibility and solidarity is demanded of us, it is extremely important that illegalized people are not left behind and that the idea of a society based on solidarity must also apply to them. The current crisis clearly shows that no one should be excluded from basic social rights. The sudden attention to "systemically relevant" care workers should include everyone - including undocumented workers - and be used to ensure that their work is given rights, upgraded and better paid. This is a first and indispensable step in developing further, long-term ideas on how to redistribute care work more equitably and overcome a racist and patriarchal division of labor.

[1] Messages from illegalized women in Berlin - more testimonials at:

[2] See;

[3] Another, again different, example of an extension of residence rights during the pandemic crisis is Italy, where harvest workers* can be legalized, but again only if they were already registered at the beginning of March, only with a work contract and for a limited period of six months - a clearly economically based policy of regularization (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 13.5.2020).

Llanquiray Painemal and Susanne Schultz are involved in the respect-Initative Berlin. Michel Jungwirth is active in the Solidarity City Berlin alliance.

We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


donate now

$ 170.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network