More than 100,000 dead, 1.72 million unemployed, hundreds of thousands of jobs cut
WE CANNOT LET THIS CONTINUE!
We are ready and willing to fight back – no more support for the government “in the national interest”!
As the Covid-19 death-toll passes 100,000, well in excess of the 70,000 civilians who died during the whole of World War Two, there is growing anger among workers and the wider population at the measures being implemented by the Tory government.
A government that is focused on blaming the public for the lack of progress in combatting the virus, on hoping that the vaccination programme will prove to be the solution to its continuing failures, and on instilling fear about new variants of the virus while covering up the fact that the variants only emerged thanks to the government’s inaction, delays and inadequate measures. A government that continues to channel hundreds of millions in public money to its private-sector cronies and party donors every month, at the same time as thousands of people lose their incomes and their jobs.
People are being told to stay at home “to protect the NHS” by the same politicians who have driven the NHS into the ground, systematically starving it of public funding for more than 10 years in order to open it up to privatisation, the same politicians who voted against a pay-rise for nurses two years ago and then hypocritically co-opted the people’s spontaneous expressions of gratitude and appreciation into a cynical “Clap for Carers” PR exercise. The same politicians who have inflicted exhaustion, clinical depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder on NHS and care home staff, and put thousands of families in the horrific situation of not knowing when their loved ones might receive treatment for other life-threatening conditions (in addition to the millions of people – 4.46 million in England alone – who are left waiting for more routine treatments that include knee and hip replacement surgery).
Meanwhile, the government’s inaction, criminal negligence and corruption is still being ignored by the Starmer leadership and the TUC leadership, as they continue to support the latest in a long line of inadequate and mistimed measures, still prioritising the so-called “national interest” over the interests and obvious needs of working people.
The true meaning of “national interest” is to give the capitalists a free hand in destroying the lives and livelihoods of working people in their never-ending search for profit.
The complicity of the Labour Party and TUC leaderships in British capitalism’s offensive against working people is echoed by the newly-launched Project for Peace and Justice, whose champions include Jeremy Corbyn and Len McCluskey (see “Open Forum”, page 4).
The working class wants to fight back. And that fightback is taking place. Workers are resisting, despite too often being left hanging by those at the highest levels who claim to lead them. On 7 January, 9,000 engineers and call centre workers (GMB members) at British Gas began a national five-day strike in response to the company’s “fire and rehire” plans, similar to the failed attempt at British Airways. Despite bullying and intimidation by British Gas management during the first strike action, the GMB set five more 24-hour strikes between 20 January and 1 February.
One of the problems highlighted by the GMB strike action is the lack of broad unity and solidarity: of the 20,000 British Gas employees being pressured to accept worse employment contracts or lose their jobs, around 7,000 frontline office workers represented by UNISON accepted the company’s new terms in December 2020, and 4,000 non-unionised staff also agreed to sign new contracts. But the workers fighting for their jobs are not responsible for the lack of unity and solidarity; that responsibility lies with their leaders, who are consistently refusing to link up the workers’ acts of resistance into a common cause on basic demands – there are even reports of offers of solidarity being ignored.
Another problem is that – unsurprisingly – the Starmer leadership has remained deafeningly silent on this and many other examples of organised resistance by workers. It is hard to think of a single example of Starmer and his cabal even using the word “unions” in its stream of statements on the health and economic crisis.
The challenge for working people today is to recognise the obstacles being put in their path by their leaderships, and to refuse to be isolated. The challenge is to channel their frustration, fear and anger into fighting back practically against the attacks on their lives and livelihoods they are facing. But that fightback needs to be based on united action on common demands, based on linking up the various acts of resistance and strikes and co-ordinating the action that needs to be taken.
There is no more time to lose! More than 100,000 lives have been needlessly lost, and tens of thousands of livelihoods have been needlessly destroyed. As this criminally negligent government and its “national interest” supporters gaslight the people and abandon them to an even worse repeat of the disaster last spring, let us also remember and repeat that the emergency demands put forward by Labour Internationalist last April – including: requisition the billions given to the banks and big businesses and apply them to emergency measures to directly protect the population; requisition big companies to serve in the production of everything that is lacking today in the NHS; ban “temporary” lay-offs, job-cuts and bogus self-employment; full pay immediately for all self-isolated workers, whatever their work status; financial security for all, scrap Universal Credit – are still in the best interests of the working class and must be met! Today, that list of demands must also include requisitioning the big pharmaceutical labs to produce the necessary vaccine doses at cost rather than at a profit for private companies.
And all of this can only be carried out by a government serving the interests of the working class, a workers’ government that breaks with the capitalist system and its institutions.