by Ken Ferguson
· The euphoria that erupted with the Covid vaccine breakthroughs is entirely understandable as people across the planet cross their fingers and sigh with relief.
Of course despite some over hyped comments about “back to normal by spring” serious voices are carfule to suggest that the main impact of the vaccine is unlikely to felt for around a year and all agree a hard winter lies ahead. Elsewhere in this Voice we look in detail at what this could involve.
If the Dunkirk style “all in it together” spirit of the spring has faded amidst blows such the infamous Barnard Castle jaunt and a growing list of failures and cronyism in the English track and trace system there is still wistful talk of a “new normal” post-Covid.
Both Voice and the SSP are, of course, strong supporters both of defending the existing jobs, health and right of workers and of the idea of real change after the virus is contained.
However we have no illusions that this will be introduced by a round table of generous bosses talking to happy workers and designing that ‘new normal’ which awards all with bigger profits and wages. All history demonstrates the fairy tale that this is.
Simply put Scotland is a country divided by class and even as the crisis plays out thousands have lost jobs, faced reduced pay, and stare growing hardship in the eye. Beneath the starry talk of change the hard question must be posed-new for who?
Tip of the iceberg
In this issue we cover the growing list of struggles already emerging around jobs and pay from CalMac to BT and all the indications are that more and more are in the pipeline. The real danger of course is, as we have warned, that these attacks are simply the tip of the iceberg.
Of course there is no doubt that the Covid crisis has sparked a mammoth economic crisis and that this, linked to the ever growing climate emergency makes an unanswerable case both for action to deal with the immediate impact and the wider consequences.
Indeed the action needed both to defend workers interests now and win change will be the central theme of the Voice Zoom Rally on 30th November which is set out here.
What is not in question is that the actions, priorities and plans which can take us from today’s unequal, poverty ridden Scotland to a different better country based not on the whims of financial mandarins and footloose capital but meeting the needs of people and planet already exist.
In this process one of the few real gains flowing from the current crisis is the death blow it has delivered to the myth that wages, homes and public services can only be afforded if we believe in a ‘magic money tree’.
Well the Tories who chanted about this in the bear pit of yah boo at Westminster are now entirely silent as not just one such tree has been discovered but an entire forest found!
Untold billions have been spent that used not to be available and billions more conjured out of the air by the Bank of England’s mystery weapon of ‘quantitative easing’, manufacturing money. Don’t try this at home—they will call it forgery.
Jobs, housing, health
The serious point however is that while plans which can harness the needs of Scotland’s working class for jobs, housing, health and public services to meet the crisis and the money can be found political will to combine them is wanting.
Instead the thinking of both the governments at Holyrood and Westminster remains wedded to the 40 years dominant idea that market forces are the wisest way forward and will solve all problems with the state either keeping out of the way, bankrolling investors or actively passing laws outlawing workers’ unions.
Even though the wreckage lies all about us in closed industries and blighted communities the mainstream politicians ably backed by a supine media continue to label those 40 years of failure a success.
Further bitter proof of this reality can be found today with the total failure of the promises sky written by then First Minister Salmond ten years ago about the jobs Horn of Plenty that would be generated by the development of offshore renewables and tidal power.
As exposed by the STUC earlier this year and confirmed by the scandal of the BiFab yards being by passed for work round the corner from their slipway in favour of far east competitors, the market may be wise but is also ruthless and driven by the bottom line.
The world laid bare by the Covid crisis will demand radical change and holds the promise of creating a Scotland based on the needs of people and planet not the profiteering elite.
Only a mass movement which wins the majority working class to an alliance with communities, climate campaigners and others with the aim of producing the goods, technology, modern homes and clean transport and in turn jobs and an end to poverty will be capable of forcing change.
The old Labour Movement slogan which told us that “You have a world to Win” remains central. But as the climate crisis accelerates we need to understand we also have a world to lose.