The Socialist

The Socialist 25 March 2020

Coronavirus crisis: Tests, full pay and funding - for all now

The Socialist issue 1079

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Going viral: Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

The Covid-19 pandemic is a world social crisis which touches every aspect of life. The iniquities and failings of the capitalist system are being exposed, and workers and communities are organising in response.

Send us your comments, reports, anecdotes and thoughts, in not more than 200 words, to [email protected]

Boris doesn't speak for us

Boris Johnson, photo Chatham House/CC, photo Chatham House/CC

Boris Johnson, photo Chatham House/CC, photo Chatham House/CC   (Click to enlarge)

When Boris makes his announcements, who has he spoken to apart from Dominic Cummings?

He announced food hampers for 1.5 million who have to stay at home for 12 weeks. Did he speak to local councils to see if they could prepare, produce and deliver them or was it Harrods?

He said schools had to stay open for children of 'critical workers', but lost the list for a couple of days! Did he speak to anyone who ran a school or just to his old head at Eton?

He announced we all have to stay inside - fair enough. But did he let the people delivering services to 'critical workers' know in advance he wasn't talking about them?!

He can't get testing kits ready, he can't get PPE to health staff or critical workers, he can't get ventilators to hospitals that need them for critically ill patients.

This bumbling champion of the 'private sector' now has to rely on a tattered state to battle this epidemic. He's paying out billions to shore up private-sector provision - private hospitals, private rail companies, etc, and now he wants emergency powers.

The biggest emergency is to get rid of him and these parasites now! I'm sure there are hundreds of thousands of factory workers that would turn their production capacity over to producing PPE, ventilators, testing equipment and food if they ran it.

I bet there are hundreds of thousands of delivery drivers, including those in the gig economy, who know how to get those products to where they are needed.

There's no planning, no coordination and no understanding of how to get things done. I don't want to keep politics out of this. This crisis has exposed why these capitalist politicians chose to save their own profits at the expense of our lives.

Workers, let's take back control! That's what socialism is about.

Hugo Pierre, Tower Hamlets

Hospital - an inside view

Being in hospital is not much fun at the best of times but there is palpable fear at the moment across the board: staff, patients and visitors. And the coronavirus surge is yet to come. The health service has been starved of funding for the last 12 years. Quick fixes now are not going to solve the problem.

For example, if intensive care wards generally are like Homerton Hospital, east London, then they rely heavily on agency nurses. Good as they are (and they are good), the nature of agency work pressures them to continue working.

At the moment they are stretched to the limit. Before the Corona outbreak changed the situation, it appeared that certain people who already leech off the NHS were looking at the agency use as a prelude to further privatisation.

This virus has dealt these ideas a blow. Alongside this, the government's new policies on immigration post-Brexit are going to mean a drying-up of the trained nurses they were sucking in from other countries. This will leave a gaping hole. There is a big lack and time lag of UK-trained nurses.

This is not a good situation when dealing with a virus like this. We need to demand an end to privatisation, nationalisation of the pharmaceutical industry, and a health service free at the point of use for everyone.

The covers of capitalism have been thrown back by the coronavirus, giving people a glimpse of the idea that the current system can't deliver. Only a mass workers' party with system change at its core can satisfy those needs. Time for such a party to come forward to end this current madness.

Mick Cotter, Hackney

We won't pay for this crisis

Whether you are under house arrest, self-isolating or just working from home, C-virus has a lot to answer for.

Yet it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good. Budgens supermarket has attracted media attention by hiking the price of a toilet roll by 60%. All the supermarkets are expanding their workforce in the hope of making a killing (no pun intended). Will their underpaid employees benefit from the largesse of the millionaires who own the supermarkets? This is not likely.

The government's response to the C-virus has been to hand out money to the rich with the promise that some of it will trickle down to the working class. In the past, such schemes have always seen the money remain attached to the sticky fingers of the millionaires. They didn't get where they are today by being generous to their employees.

McDonalds, before they were forced to close, was trying to get its employees to work without basic protection like hand sanitiser. You can bet the bosses were well protected from the virus.

As reported in the Socialist, Richard Branson has demanded billions from the taxpayer while insisting the people who make his money for him can manage without any for eight weeks.

And if the working classes start getting uppity because they are not being paid? Boris Badenough has 20,000 troops on standby, just in case.

The Trade Union Congress (TUC) has been cooperating with the government. It is time for the union leaders to take the government warmly by the throat and insist that the working class should not pay the price for this crisis.

The Socialist Party's 'Workers' Charter' (see back page) to fight the C-virus is a good example of the kind of demands the TUC should be making.

If the TUC were to get off its knees it would find there is a lot of support in the country. Listen to what people are saying in the supermarket queues. There is a lot of anger which needs to be channelled by the Labour movement.

Derek McMillan, self-isolated in Worthing

Essential - not low-skilled

"Funny how all of these 'low-skilled' jobs (cleaners, delivery drivers, retail assistants) that so many look down upon are now on the frontline holding society together while we work from home.

Those jobs aren't low-skilled, they're essential and they should be paid as such."

Seen on a London bus drivers' WhatsApp group

Shafted by the suits

There are over 4.7 million good people like me. Zero-hours, locum, agency, gig economy workers. People, who care, clean and provide valued services.

People who from necessity genuinely plan for most eventualities, but could never plan for a pandemic. That's for governments, the big people. Sadly, the rancid suits that now run the UK aren't fit to walk dogs. They don't care about the low-paid, the vulnerable, the poor. Or me.

Coronavirus now means I'm not working and have to self-isolate. It was an instant decision based on a duty of care to me. I've been around the houses but it was a shock. I almost threw up, not with fear, but by the powerlessness of it all. And the sadness, because I work with vulnerable people and really like my job.

No work for me means having to claim benefits. The last few days has involved numerous calls and hours on the phone, to hopefully receive a pittance. And to build up more debt because the Tories are not going to bail me out, and the millions like me, as they did the bankers.

Benefit claiming is like a complex maze. I really feel so sorry for the vulnerable and those whose main language is not English. It must be hell.

And then I hear about that human vomitarium - aka Iain Duncan Smith - who says that Universal Credit payments should now be speeded up after he brutally slowed them down. They say you couldn't write it.

This madness need not be. I don't blame the virus, I blame all those politicians and so-called labour movement 'leaders' who for the past 40 years implemented cuts or refused to fight them. Capitalists and cowards united as one. They will be to blame for all the needless carnage we will face.

I have a friend in hospital recovering from an operation. Her post-operation monitors are held together by sticking plasters. That says it all.

Steve Nally, Lambeth, south London

Overcrowded buses

Weekday buses in Leeds have moved to a Saturday service. Prior to the pandemic, Leeds buses were already at capacity and had issues with overcrowding.

I live on a route that's heavily used by NHS workers (running past two hospitals) and several large supermarkets. As expected, there was a lot of overcrowding with the new bus timetable making 'social distancing' impossible.

Many key workers will instead have to rely on walking, cycling or taxis as a safer alternative. Many of these workers will already be working extra hours in this crisis.

We need a planned transport industry that keeps these crucial bus routes running, even if it is not profitable to do so. The private companies will not agree to this, so we should nationalise them and run them for the public interest not private profit.

Tanis Belsham-Wray, Leeds

Socialism for the rich

A number of people are commenting that the coronavirus crisis is forcing Johnson into taking 'socialist measures'. While this reaction is understandable, it is not correct.

The crisis is forcing Johnson to abandon elements of neoliberal capitalism, in favour of state intervention in the capitalist economy to overcome the problem that free market forces alone are wholly inadequate for solving the problems created by the crisis.

Johnson is still appealing for private industry to make ventilators; he initially called for pubs and restaurants to close, rather than enforcing such measures by law, in order to protect the insurance companies from the claims that would result from compulsory measures.

The funding made available today for wages to pay laid-off or self-isolating workers, while welcome, is none the less a taxpayers' subsidy to the insurance companies.

Socialism would requisition private hospital beds, and bring the private hospitals into the NHS, not pay 300 per night per bed. Socialism would nationalise the banks, insurance companies and major industries, abolish the profit motive, and plan production to meet human need, not private profit.

Socialism would not leave democracy at the factory gate/office door, or limit it to a five-yearly ballot, but extend to all areas of society, allowing ordinary people to use their talents, training, education and experience to control the politicians, the economy, industry and public administration for the general good.

The current crisis won't be resolved by Johnson's Tories. It will be resolved by ordinary working people, from all walks of working life, getting together and doing the right things.

Roger Bannister, Liverpool

Laid-off in ten seconds

I've been temporarily laid-off until the virus is over. I was working as a sales assistant in a retail opticians. But no financial compensation for the hours I won't be working.

I received a ten-second phone call informing me of this - that was it. I don't know when I will be back in work or anything. I know there might be a 'lockdown' anyway, but I really don't know what's happened to my job.

When I was working, most of my colleagues were stressed out because of the uncertainty, and the lack of response from the government and from the directors here. Some of them didn't want to call in sick as they didn't get paid and they couldn't afford to lose money.

One colleague was confused as to why we were still being asked to work. Personally, it was frustrating to go to work. I expected the store to close temporarily, but I didn't expect to be cut off, over the phone. There are no measures here to protect workers in this business.

Socialist Students member

Social-distancing - who's to blame

The media tried to demonise ordinary people going out on a sunny day. These 'selfish' people are supposedly to blame for the coronavirus crisis. The Tory NHS cuts, the shambolic lack of testing, the dysfunctional market are all let off the hook.

The media is silent about the greed of the PFI firms, the private medical firms, the profiteers and the Richard Bransons. The aim of Johnson's campaign is to absolve the government of austerity and the capitalist system of mass carnage, and instead put the blame on ordinary people.

Amnon Baron-Cohen, north London

In this issue

What we think

Coronavirus crisis: Tests, full pay and funding - for all now

State intervention shows what is possible

Coronavirus news

Coronavirus and domestic violence: a double threat to women's lives

Coronavirus news in brief

Coronavirus workplace news

We need tests for all now! Nationalise production and research

Retail and the coronavirus outbreak - organise to defend workers interests

Transport union RMT demands action for coronavirus tube safety

Organising in the workplace in the time of coronavirus

Union independence must be maintained - a reply to the Trade Union Congress

University workers win full pay for casual staff

Bosses not workers should pay for JCB shutdown

Social care

Social care: "Not good enough by miles"

Poll Tax

30 years since the huge anti-poll tax demo... And how mass non-payment of the tax was built

Coronavirus organising

Coronavirus: What role could community support groups play?

Selling the Socialist

Like what we say, help us keep saying it - fund the Socialist

'Meeting' to discuss socialist ideas - more vital than ever during the crisis

Readers' opinion

Going viral: Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis


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25 March 2020