ON 23 March 2020, Boris Johnson outlined measures to stop the spread of Covid-19, with a series of stop-go lockdowns.
Since then, of the major capitalist economies, the UK’s official death toll has risen from 364 to 126,172, second only to the US death toll of 555,945. In the total number of cases, the UK total is 4,301,925 while the US total is 30,576,962.
A minute’s silence was held at midday yesterday as part of a government ‘day of reflection’ on one year since the first lockdown. In fact, this gesture is an insult to the dead! Much more is required than a period of reflection. Action is called after the USA, the most powerful capitalist country in the world, and Britain, a major capitalist country, were unable to fight the novel coronavirus and defeat it.
At the same time China, where the crisis began, took steps to totally shut down its economy to deal with the crisis, ensuring that workers continued to receive their wages and had proper access to food and medicine, and treatment in hospitals that were built in days. China beat the virus in record time!
The secret of their success is that China is not a capitalist country where the number one worry for a capitalist ruling class is how to maximise profits, with the health of its citizens way down on the list of priorities.
The UK has experienced a number of half-hearted stop-go tactics as far as the economy is concerned, with each being called off at the slightest sign of progress so that the bosses could carry on making profits. The health and safety of the working class and its youth were always secondary to the rate of profit!
The 2002-2004 SARS outbreak was an epidemic involving a severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus. This outbreak was dealt with, but no real preparation was made to deal with the prospect of a more severe respiratory syndrome.
In fact, the Cygnus exercise, carried out by NHS England in October 2016 to estimate the impact of a hypothetical H2N2 influenza pandemic on the United Kingdom, warned that ‘the UK’s preparedness and response, in terms of its plans, policies, and capability, is currently not sufficient to cope with the extreme demands of a severe pandemic that will have a nationwide impact across all sectors.’
The report’s findings were kept secret and ignored!
In the absence of any preparations to meet a new pandemic, when Covid-19 struck the UK, it spread like wildfire. In a situation of panic, patients were sent from hospitals into care homes where they spread the disease far and wide. The UK did not have any of the required PPE (personal protective equipment) equipment to deal with the crisis.
When seven huge ‘Nightingale hospitals’ were built at a record pace to deal with the crisis, they could not be used because the savage Tory NHS cuts had got rid of the staff that were able to run them. The Nightingales ended up being dismantled. Billions were then wasted on funding privateers to establish test and trace programmes that were failures.
Thousands of health workers lost their lives because of the lack of PPE, while the stop-go-stop lockdown tactics failed to resolve the crisis, only intensifying it.
British capitalism is now looking forward to a new lease of life after the development, belatedly, of vaccines able to deal with the crisis. In fact, we are now seeing vaccine wars where different capitalist states are seeking to grab the lion’s share of any vaccines available.
The bosses meanwhile are looking forward to getting the upper hand over the virus and have already begun their fire and rehire wars against workers to resume making super-profits by making savage wage cuts.
While propping up the bosses with unlimited grants of billions of pounds, the Johnson government is battling to give NHS nurses and doctors a one per cent pay rise, the ultimate insult for their heroic work in the last year.
So one year after the first lockdown, what is required is not a minute’s silence or a day of reflection. What is needed is for the working class to force the TUC to call a general strike to bring down the Tories and bring in a workers’ government.
This will give healthworkers a 15% pay rise and make sure the crisis of capitalism is resolved through the nationalisation of the banks and the major industries under workers’ management.
This socialist planned economy will work for the benefit of the working people of the world.
It will urge the workers of the world to despatch capitalism worldwide to where it belongs – into the dustbin of history.