Capitalism’s crisis can be workers’ opportunity

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
15 July 2020

Things are looking very bad for the bosses’ economy. All the experts agree that this is the worst recession in 300 years.

    In fact the 1.8% rise in GDP registered for May failed to lift the capitalists’ spirits, given the 20.3% plunge overall.

    To quote the Office for Budget Responsibility “the coronavirus outbreak and the public health measures taken to contain it have delivered one of the largest ever shocks to the UK economy”. It adds that it is “difficult to predict what will happen from one month to the next”.

    Yes, their “uncertainty” has reached a whole new level. Of course nobody can know exactly when or how the pandemic will end. Will a second wave be worse than the first? Will an effective vaccine be found? So far, these questions have no answers.

    However, there is another unanswered question - and that is what the added negative impact of Brexit, (and worse, a no-deal Brexit) will be, coming as it does, right on top of the Covid-crisis.

    And this is a question which the government would rather avoid. Because, just like Johnson’s criminal delay in implementing measures to mitigate the pandemic, this will be yet more “self-inflicted” damage.

    Of course, Johnson, now sporting a Tory-blue mask and belatedly agreeing to make face coverings compulsory in shops, certainly tries to focus public attention elsewhere. But the dire social consequences of the recession, will be magnified many times by his Brexit policies and the “splendid isolation” of Britain, which he claims to favour.

“Pointing” workers out

In fact the shape of things to come was clearly outlined by Priti Patel when she set out her points-based immigration system, which is due to come in on New Year’s Day 2021. Freedom of movement into and out of the EU will be ended. Foreign workers from everywhere in the world will require a visa to come to Britain. And no doubt British workers will have to get one in turn, if they want to go anywhere overseas.

    The number of points required, poses a problem for those who wish to come here, however. Because most of the social care workers - or “heroes” of the Covid-19 pandemic, currently looking after the elderly and disabled, would not qualify!

    Patel has proposed a “fast track” health and care visa, for those workers who have a confirmed job offer in “skilled” roles in the NHS or care sector, like doctors, nurses, radiographers, social workers and paramedics. But the job is meant to come with a £25,600 minimum salary, so this excludes frontline social care workers, many of whom are agency temps and on the minimum wage. And what is more, they come from Africa, Romania, Poland, Bulgaria, etc...

    The visa requirements also exclude many who have come from overseas to do cleaning, portering, and ancillary jobs in the public services, having had to accept precarious, zero-hours contracts, also on the minimum wage.

    Brexiteer Patel boasts that her new policy will mean that “Britain once more takes control of its borders”. She will freely admit only those highly skilled researchers and scientists who meet the criteria of her “global talent scheme”. But this begs another question: in the light of this government’s failure to control coronavirus or anything else so far, just who would want to join her “talent scheme” in a future barren, Brexited, Britain?

What next for workers?

So where does this leave the working class? With unprecedented unemployment levels predicted as the crisis unfolds further, it is said that a depression worse than the 1930s is on the cards. That crisis gave rise to an explosion of ultra-nationalist fervour, fanned by big business and its politicians, which ended in the catastrophic carnage of WW2.

    Of course this is not the 1930s. And workers have the advantage of being able to learn from history. The working class can counter racism and nationalism, precisely because its ranks include workers from everywhere in the world. And collectively it can also ensure that everyone who wants to work, has work: that the jobs that are available are shared out among all the workers and that the capitalist class pays a living wage to everyone.

    How? Well, that has been proven to be possible by none other than Rishi Sunak! He has found the means to borrow as much money as needed to bail out the capitalists, paying their wage bills, cancelling their taxes and giving them long credit lifelines...

    So why should these same bosses and politicians not dig even deeper to meet the needs of the working class? And all the more so, since without workers, there is no production, there are no profits, and there definitely is no “recovery”. The working class can decide to let them all sink, or swim...