"Freedom" day - if ever there was a misnomer, that's it! & Taking the knee is - and must be - a political gesture

 "Freedom" day - if ever there was a misnomer, that's it!

Health secretary Javid has said "we must all learn to live with the virus" as he and Johnson confirmed the ending of restrictions - the final, apparently irreversible "Freedom Day" next Monday. Of course most restrictions, like mask-wearing, have already ended in practice - despite the risk.

    Infections are now predicted to hit 100,000 per day by mid-August, unmitigated by preventive measures. But we're told that it's all OK, because the "vaccination wall" will protect us!

    Thus far, this "wall" does seem to be holding. While infection rates are already over 35,000 per day, the number of hospitalisations and deaths aren't increasing; certainly not as they did during the 2 previous Covid waves.

    So, yes, it seems that "we're alright Jack" as far as Covid mortality is concerned. And just as well. Because the NHS could never cope with another Covid surge. Not when the accrued backlog of 5.12m patients, which resulted from turning it into a "Covid-only" service for over one year, is already threatening to overwhelm it. And that's without any new, added, Covid crisis.

    But the rest of the world certainly isn't "alright" at the moment. And not because of a cut in Britain's (relatively tiny) aid budget, either! No, the cause is to be found in the permanent division of the world, under capitalism's imperialist system, into rich and poor countries: the latter being the dependent backyards of their former colonial masters, doomed for as long as this system prevails, to underdevelopment and poverty.

    Covid has amplified this injustice and inequality a thousand-fold. Today, fires are burning in the looted-bare shopping malls in South Africa as the hungry poor riot in the streets, just as they did yesterday in Colombia, Peru, Lebanon, Iraq, or Palestine's West Bank - against corruption, poverty and discrimination - not to mention the violent protests against racism in Minneapolis, or Louisville, in the USA, fuelled by deprivation.

    While Johnson boasts that 66% of adults in Britain have been fully vaccinated, only 25% have been vaccinated worldwide - and it's just 1% in the poorest countries. But in today's interconnected and interdependent world, rich countries like Britain can no more insulate themselves against lethal viruses, than they can insulate themselves against the contagion of a rebellion of the working class and the poor - against yes, their criminal mishandling of a pandemic, but ultimately, against the iniquitous profit system which oppresses all workers everywhere.

 Taking the knee is - and must be - a political gesture

After the racist abuse of the three black England football players who missed penalties against Italy, captain, Harry Kane, said that the abusers were "not England fans, and we don't want you". The fact is, however, that racism has been a constant presence in English football, not to mention in wider society - even further back than 1978, when England's first black player, Viv Anderson, made his debut.

    Current black English football players say they're not surprised by what's happened. They expected it as soon as the penalties were missed. Of course, they've experienced racism throughout their lives, and not just in football, but from the police and other state institutions.

    Penalty-taker Bukayo Saka's club, Arsenal, put out a statement saying that racism "cannot continue and the social media platforms and authorities must act”. Home Secretary Patel threatened these companies with a new "Online Safety Bill" if they don't do anything. The FA has called for the "strongest punishments". Of course, there have been laws against racism since the Race Relations Act 1965. As we can see today, they've done nothing towards ending it. 

    This time round, footballers, journalists, commentators etc., rightly criticised Johnson and Patel for "stoking the fire": as they point out, Patel called taking the knee, which the whole England team did throughout the Euros, "gesture politics". Neither would Patel criticise fans who booed England players. And Johnson took the same approach, even if they both now self-righteously pretend to criticise racist abuse.

    The fact is that the ruling class and its politicians have always used racism as a way to divide the working class against itself, all the better to exploit it. In other words, racism in its many forms is an intrinsic part of their system. So nobody should be surprised that it keeps coming back, especially in times of crisis, despite all the well-intentioned campaigns against it.

    However, this also means that pretending that taking the knee is not a political gesture, or that it should not be, avoids the issue. Racism is, and remains, a political weapon used against the working class as a whole. It needs to be fought as such, with the knowledge that it will not be defeated until the class system itself and the exploitation which it imposes, have been swept away for good.