In this editorial we look at the general situation of the Covid crisis, the incapability of the ruling class and the need for an independent discussion and practice within the global working class in order to find a way out.
Ever since the Covid pandemic began politicians, journalists, commentators and assorted Dames and Lords have been telling us that the pandemic has revealed the inequalities that exist in our society.
How wonderful that all these highly paid folk have suddenly become aware that many people don’t have large houses, or gardens or incomes or laptops or internet, can’t work from home or don’t even have work or a home.
The people they feel so sorry for knew about inequality long ago. No, what the Covid pandemic has revealed is that all of these people, the Government, Labour opposition, Dame Dildo, Lord Fuckwit – the people that supposedly are in charge – are incapable of organising a piss-up in a brewery. If the vaccine roll out has been more efficient than the ‘track and trace’, it’s only because it was mostly organised by the NHS with masses of volunteers rather than by the Government and their incompetent, privatised cowboy outfits.
While the Government have been very quick to pour billions of pounds into their chums’ pockets to get PPE from a bloke who previously imported dog food, they have proved themselves utterly unable to prepare for a pandemic and unable for a year to stop the spread of the virus and the resulting deaths.
These are the people who have starved both the NHS and local government of funds for years and destroyed the infrastructure that was needed to fight the pandemic. From Thatcher’s ‘there is no society’, Blair’s ‘Stakeholder society’ and Cameron’s ‘Big society’ , the administrators of British capitalism have done everything they can to destroy local government and atomise working class communities in workplaces and neighbourhoods. These are the essential solidarity networks that are vital for a grass roots organisation to prevent the spread of the virus and coping with its effects.
Johnson likes to say the pandemic took everyone by surprise. Yet it is now emerges that before the present pandemic many governments had set up commissions to look at just such possible outbreaks but had all ignored the advice that these inquiries had given. In the UK just such an inquiry four years ago highlighted the shortage of PPE, the lack of any manufacturing capacity and the shortage of medical staff. What did the governments do with these findings – nothing. As always, ‘guided by the science’ -when it suits.
The rulers cannot rule, they don’t give a shit about public health except when it interferes with money making.
Even more importantly the centralised, bureaucratic systems they have set up to cope with the crisis, run by their incompetent over paid pals have failed and are still failing at every stage. The ‘world beating ‘ track and trace system, run by Dame Dido, chair of the Jockey Club, wife of Boris Johnson’s mate, was a joke.
The working class are the main victims of the virus and the people who are suffering the most – economically, mentally and physically. Yet we are excluded from all decision making and excluded from organising an effective response. The scientific knowledge – and debate amongst scientists – that must shape a successful response is hidden away from us. It’s only passed on to us in the form that these incompetents see fit, to the extent it backs up their catastrophic policies.
Lockdowns are introduced too late for fear of hurting the bosses profits. 30,000 people were allowed to go to Cheltenham races and thousands of fans to go to a Liverpool match. All to allow money making to go ahead. If they claim they didn’t know what the outcome would be then it’s evidence of their own incompetence because they had the facts – we didn’t. And even when they did bring in lockdowns they are not really lockdowns. Over and over they talked about the virus spreading in homes and bars but little was said of factories. Many workplaces that were not vital for human life kept working. People had to work without proper protection. Bus drivers, care assistants, factory workers, builders, teachers and many others all had to try to make their environments safer without any advice or equipment from the government or their own employers.
Airports were left open. On and on and on. The priority was always making money.
But the greatest evidence that our rulers are endangering us all is this – Covid is a global pandemic and can only be tackled globally. Instead we get a flag waving, nationalistic approach. Governments fight over vaccine supplies, rich countries grab what they can while the poor get nothing or pay inflated prices. Science, scientists and vaccine producers all get pulled into this us and them game pulling in a completely different direction from those people in the scientific community who have tried to co-operate globally. Its only because of this opposite approach that some scientists, building on amazing developments in the knowledge of genes and the nature of viruses and the immune systems have been able to begin producing vaccines in record time. Information has been shared around the globe in order to do this. While these sections of the scientific community have tried to work together across all borders governments around the world have refused to act in any co-ordinated way. A global pandemic with a backyard response.
Boris Johnson tells us everyday about our ‘world beating’ vaccination programme. The truth is that without a global vaccination programme the world is probably going to have to live with this virus – and probably future ones – for a long time. We have already seen new mutations in the virus. If it is not brought under control globally then other mutations can emerge that our current vaccines will not treat and the problem continues. We face a life of lockdowns, school closures and unemployment.
Capital – money that exploits wage labour – in its never ending drive for profits has colonised the whole world. In order to push down wages and conditions it has moved towards a situation where production of commodities can be rapidly moved from one country to another. In its drive for profits it is stripping the world of raw materials, turning every aspect of human life into things to be bought and sold. It is this ‘globalised’ world (globalised for capital) that has created the conditions for the virus to jump from other animals to humans, created the conditions for its rapid spread around the world and even more, creates the conditions that prevent a rational, globally co-operative response to it.
We now have a common humanity in the sense that working people around the world are linked inseparably in the production of all the essentials needed for human life. But the very nature of capitalism, of production only carried out to create profit, divides the producers along national lines, along industry lines, in a million different ways. A global system of production with no global rational control, where the people actually doing the producing, the work, have no say over anything. The needs and welfare of humans are subordinated to the needs of money to make money.
People don’t trust the politicians – rightly so. Every decision they have made has been the wrong decision, at the wrong time and usually not guided by the science. The measures have no logic. Shops and factories can be crammed with people. The nobs can go grouse shooting but young people are criminalised for having an outdoor rave. People don’t trust the drug companies, rightly so after numerous profit driven scandals. Conspiracy theories proliferate. People ignore the lockdown measures, refuse to have vaccines. Yet to avoid massive deaths both lockdowns and vaccines are vital.
We are in a lethal chaos and a disease that primarily spreads by close human contact is going hit all those crammed into bad housing, forced to work in crowded environments, those without access to sanitation and protective equipment – in other words the working class around the world and above all the poorest people in every country.
In the UK with the vaccine roll out people may well be feeling that the worst is nearly over, that there is light at the end of the tunnel. But even if in the UK the outbreak is brought under control, what about the economic fall out that is to come. What about the job losses, the hire and fire destruction of working conditions that is going on, the rent evictions that are about to start, the loss of education, and above all what about the people who have died. The UN has warned that we can expect new viruses to emerge with growing frequency. The possibility of this, climate change, the rise of poverty and inequality on an ever growing scale – all this is an indication that a world organised in its present form – where all human activity is controlled by the need of capital to reproduce itself – is degrading the very conditions for life on earth.
Is it possible to imagine a different response to the virus? Yes. In a society where all production was under the control of the producers, where government is not something that sits above everyone but is simply the universal co-ordination process of production and distribution for the common good, then all of human scientific ingenuity, all of the networks of social solidarity could bring rationality and science to bear. It would have overwhelming popular support because measures would come from below not arbitrarily imposed from above. Science and popular discourse would be integrated.
But this world, easy to imagine, does not exist. All we have are little glimpses of such a future. Globally, groups of workers have either refused to work in unsafe conditions or taken steps to make them safer. Everywhere people have set up solidarity networks to care for people. Health workers have gone way and beyond their normal terms of work. In the UK teachers have refused the implement government policy when they can see it puts people at risk.
We have seen these attempts at solidarity not just on the health front but also in terms of resisting the bosses ripping up contracts to pass on the financial burdens. In the coming months battles are going to open up over evictions, homelessness, unemployment and poverty.
It’s impossible to say exactly how this pandemic is going to play out world wide but already it is clear that to get out of this crisis and the economic catastrophe that is going to follow it the working class is going to have to find ways to react, to make their needs paramount. How to find ways to overcome the present feeling of isolation and hopelessness? We know that many people are thinking about these questions, trying to find a way out of this current nightmare. At the beginning people happily clapped for the NHS. Now everyone knows this was bullshit. Medical staff are saying don’t clap, demand we get a proper wage. Marcus Rashford faced down the government over school meals for the vulnerable. Teachers refused to go along with Gavin Williamson’s latest stupidities. Baggage handlers and other Heathrow workers took industrial action to say they won’t be made to suffer from the government’s incompetence and the employer’s greed but everywhere the present Trade Union organisations have proved they are not up to the task facing them. As for the Labour Party – what a joke.
Governments, especially the Tories, have proved themselves incapable of dealing with the pandemic. The Labour Party and the Trade Unions have proved largely incapable of organising resistance. For the working class to be able to overcome its present atomisation it will need to find new ways to organise itself, above all by no longer relying on others to solve the problems.
It is our lives they are putting at risk, our incomes they are destroying, our freedoms they are curtailing. We need to find new ways to organise ourselves, not to negotiate some slightly different outcome from a decaying, imploding society but to change the very nature of the world we live in.