by Ken Ferguson
· Despite the combined efforts of a tame mass media and government ministers to harness the stunning success of the Covid vaccines and spin it into a silver bullet the sombre toll of death and misery moves ever upwards.
Indeed by the time you read this edition of the Voice it is highly likely that the toll of UK Covid deaths will have crossed the symbolic 100,000 tally with its attendant ocean of loss, grief and misery.
Yet less than a year ago government experts took the view that a Covid toll of 20,000 would be a good outcome.
The brutal truth is that a toxic mixture of dithering, incompetence, complacency and fear on the part of bumbling Boris of his own Trump style right wing has led to multiple U-turns, policy zig zags and failures.
At the heart of this miserable failure lies a key policy choice which chose to try and contain the virus rather than eliminate it.
This was a result largely of total unpreparedness, despite ample warnings, of the scale of what we faced.
Remember the consequences? Heroic NHS staff placed in mortal danger through lack of PPE, elderly patients moved from hospitals to die in Covid infected care homes, sunshine stories about how it will soon be over, the insanity of “eat out to spread the virus’ overseen by Tory pin up boy Sunak. The list goes on…
Train wreck of a crisis
Yet all this is a direct consequence of making the wrong policy choices almost a year ago and then, wrapped in Union Jack British exceptionalism, spinning them through a dizzying train wreck of crisis in an ever more desperate attempt to convince a stoical but wary public that its all in hand. It isn’t.
Across the planet countries that have defeated the virus—from China to New Zealand—have opted not to contain the virus but to eliminate it.
This not only means that, once achieved, normality can return and, importantly the necessary defence for tracking and tracing future outbreaks—which will almost certainly occur—is in place.
By contrast here in the UK track and trace, much of it outsourced to private concerns with more knowledge of burgers than bugs and, certainly in England is largely not spoken of.
To defeat this virus—and prepare both for more dangerous mutations and entirely new viruses elimination and permanent vigilance must be at the heart of government responses to this and the ongoing threat largely resulting from human folly.
As we set out elsewhere in this Voice this approach collectively labelled “Zero Covid” is increasingly understood as the only way forward if we are to stem the death toll and rebuild.
Of course despite much wise talk about a “new normal” in which the striking social solidarity responding to the virus will be harnessed for the common good in a world of sweetness and light the powerful have other plans.
As Voice readers will be well aware this paper has called consistently not for a new normal but for a “different normal” based on the needs of people and planet with all our immense productive power, research skills, resources and human ingenuity deployed to meets economic and social needs not profit.
Struggles win change
However we have also consistently warned that such a change will only be won in sharp class struggle with the powerful, moneyed, interests who thrive in the present highly privatised profit driven set up.
This poses a stern test at any time but, against the background of Covid generated economic crisis, which has officially seen 418, 000 lost jobs with thousands more hanging by a furlough financed thread it is positively Herculean.
Yet the bosses increasingly understand the the battle for the future is joined and have unleashed a gathering storm of attacks on workers jobs and conditions as always under the false flag of “efficiency in the interests of the consumer.”
Their latest fashionable weapon is to sack workers and hold a gun to their heads offering re-hiring on longer hours, lower pay and inferior conditions with British Gas-as we report elsewhere—the current brand leaders.
From disputes on basic contracts, pressure against low pay, health a safety disputes around Covid resistance is growing from workers.
Of course the mass sackings generated by Covid are not a problem for bosses but rather have them rubbing their grubby paws with glee at what Marx termed, “The reserve army of labour,” offering them a weapon against employees challenging their power.
What is crystal clear is that the cosy world, embraced by some union leaders, bosses and centrist politicians of so called “social partnership” which pretends they have a shared interest is on its last legs as the inevitable clash of interest for the post Covid world is joined.
The job for socialists is clearly a massive one but its tasks are clear and, with clarity and unity, achievable.
Full solidarity must be unconditionally built with the growing numbers of workers waging defences of their conditions and seeking to stem the fat cats offensive.
Equally important however will be moving the broad labour movement from a world of passing excellent resolutions and writing splendid policies to one where active challenges are mounted to translate them into reality.
The planned COP26 events in Glasgow can provide a key focus which can link the major changes needed to meet the climate emergency to the interests of workers such as those betrayed by market forces at BiFab and much wider.
Key to winning this world must be a break with market dogma and a wide extension of public ownership and planning which can produce the carbon free goods and equipment from wind tower to electric transport and provide well paid stable jobs supporting long ignored communities.
There is an alternative to poverty pay, zero hours work, rip off rents and the growing alienation of millions but it will need to be fought for, starting now.