by Ken Ferguson
· As we confront the brutal impact of the out of control Covid crisis with rising death tolls, thousands in hospital and temporary morgues in the secluded woods of Surrey the news of the scandalous “food parcels” replacing free school meals burst like a star shell in the gloom.
Panicked government ministers desperately labouring to blame the public and threaten them with police repression are caught like rabbits in the headlights as the starvation rations cruelly substituted for a hot meal flash across social media, TV and press.
Not only did the revelations spark a wave of disgust but they totally eclipsed the latest “blame the public” drive fronted by the seldom seen Home Secretary Patel with a supporting cast of top cops aimed at instilling fear in the public.
They now cower before the wrath of people’s hero Marcus Rashford and an angry public disgusted at the workhouse style response to hungry children.
Yet the same firm that thought this siege ration adequate—run by David Cameron chum Paul Walsh—offers delicacies such a Lemon Grass wrapped Salmon to posh schools.
All this surely deals a near fatal blow to the guff about “all in it together Dunkirk style” in the handling and consequences of the pandemic.
So far at both UK and Scottish levels the response to the crisis has been a chapter of false starts, over optimistic stories, sheer incompetence leading to needless deaths and it is in this context that we look elsewhere in this Voice at where things now stand.
There is no doubt that the successful development of vaccines is a stunning scientific achievement but there, as we point out elsewhere, they are not a silver bullet as now being spun by both politicians and the media.
As the Voice has continually pointed out the Covid is raging in a society already deeply divided and scarred by poverty, insecure work, inadequate housing, fat cat greed alongside rough sleeping and Covid death toll hitting the lowest paid hardest.
Elsewhere in the Voice we take a hard look at the realities facing working people with assaults on job security at major employers such as BT and British Gas acting as the leading edge of a gathering offensive which they hope will ensure a post-Covid world favouring the bosses.
Faced with the stark warning of the bosses plans, a government in Westminster rabidly committed to free market answers spun as “levelling up” and a Scottish Government wedded to a ten year austerity plan in its so called Scottish Growth Commission the question is posed—what is to be done?
Cut throat low wages
Clearly there is and will continue to be a role for both pressurising governments and lobbying on policy but it needs to be said that outcome of this process to date has, at best, proved meagre.
This is confirmed by the experience of the results in the so-called Just Transition work on climate change where excellent reports a plenty—for example from the STUC—abound but are miles away from the reality on the ground.
This is brutally confirmed by the BiFab debacle which we have covered here on a number of occasions which establishes that, left to a free market, Scottish workers will lose out to cut throat low wage competition.
In the past the working class movement would have looked to its “political wing” the Labour Party to shape policies to meet their needs. Not any more.
The Voice never shared the idea that a Corbyn-led Labour would win power and play such a role but that ship is now not so much sailed but sunk. The current Labour Party leadership largely acts as an echo chamber—after some grumbling—to Boris with the Scottish branch ever more isolated.
It is now clear that only a mass people’s movement with an energised working class at its core but embracing a wide spectrum of other forces and concerns is going to be essential in determining the shape and scope of both todays crisis response and the reality of a post-Covid world.
Against a ruling elite desperate to get back to profit making and load the costs of the Covid crisis onto the people is ranged a population which has seen that change is needed and most significantly that money, far from scarce, can be found as needed.
After May assuming polls are correct an SNP government will be faced with how to win an second referendum on independence.
For the pro-independence left—which includes both the Voice and the SSP—this presents the need to play a key role in this process. In many ways the long saga of how/when of the referendum is a diversion from to key question of how is it to be won.
For socialists the independence demand is a democratic demand which goes far beyond the setting up of new state and flying the saltire over Edinburgh castle.
And it miles away from the “Business as usual but worse” world of the SNP’s neoliberal Growth Commission.
The challenge of post-Covid and the accelerating climate emergency increasingly face us with a stark choice between minority profit driven rule which ultimately menaces the planet or a sane people and planet world with key services publicly owned and based on need, not profit.
This is a mammoth task and will face opposition in word and deed from some of the most powerful forces on the planet but it a task that must not be ducked.