What's needed is a workers' road to freedom

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24 February 2021

This week the US registered 500,000 deaths due to Covid-19. President Biden admitted that this was terrible news. The virus has taken (so far) as many US lives as WW1, WW2 and the Vietnam War put together. For Johnson however, the even greater British death toll in proportion to Britain's much smaller population, which surpassed 120,000 by this Monday, was best not mentioned. He had his "great vaccine victory" to boast about and his "one-way road to freedom"to announce!

    But just in case, he added that the public should not be surprised if there are still "more deaths"and he cautioned that the "r" number could go up again... Of course it could. Especially when step one of his freedom road is opening schools in England in one "big bang" (against several expert warnings), and without even the extra space and ventilation necessary. So yes, 10 million little potential variant Covid carriers are to be confined together indoors with their school staff and also let loose outdoors.

It’s a new virus?

To those who suggested vaccinating school staff first, embedded experts (like new national hero, Professor Van-Tam) came out to explain that teachers - as shown by ONS data covering March to September - “were not more likely to get, or die of Covid, than the rest of the age-matched population”. Except that the new variant Covid (to be followed by others) only started spreading in December, producing a new, much larger and more lethal, wave. So these statistics don’t apply. The variant C-19 is more infectious, infects younger people and causes more serious disease. This is why Ireland's medical advisors say it's actually a "new" virus, causing a "new" pandemic.

    But never mind that. The protection of the vaccine is meant to replace the protection of lockdown, according Johnson, so the "economy" can open up from June 21st. Even though most of the population is only going to get their jabs sometime afterwards, in the summer... And apparently we should also forget about the rest of the world, which is nowhere near vaccinating even “at risk” groups, if they have any vaccines at all.

Hazard: do not enter

So where does Johnson’s roadmap leave large sections of the British working class, who were never “protected” by his leaky lockdowns in the first place? The extremely broad criterion was “go to work if you can't do it from home”, which left millions of workers exposed to the virus, killing thousands of them, as well as their family members.

    We now hear that the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has not brought a single prosecution against an employer for breaking Covid-19 rules! At least 8,000 workers, exposed to Covid at workplaces, many of which were found to have breached regulations, have died from the virus. Many deaths were not even counted - and there are undoubtedly more fatalities associated with workplaces, to come. It should be - but isn’t - a national scandal. Of course not, in this one-sided, class society.

    Despite the "offer" (again, the government is covering its back) of rapid C-19 testing for workplaces with over 50 workers, neither BMW’s mini factory, nor Ford factories, nor the large Royal mail sorting offices, nor even railway stations, have actually started providing these tests on-site for the workforce. In fact bosses are still "disciplining" workers for taking time off for tests!

    Of course, they don't want to know if their workers are carrying the virus, given that they will have to send them and all their contacts home, and lose production and profits as a result.

Turning isolation into starvation

As for surviving self-isolation, even Labour’s Tory-clone, Keir Starmer, has been obliged to complain that workers don't get the financial support they were promised. Only 1 in 8 workers turns out to be eligible for the government’s £500 isolation payment. And in practice, it’s even worse than that: 70% of those who recently applied for it in Wales, were rejected!

    And what “protection” is offered by Universal Credit for those who lost their jobs during the pandemic? It provides just over £100/week if you are over 25... and only £85/week if you are younger. And by the way, 60% of the 1.74m "officially unemployed" today, are under 25. The hypocrisy to beat it all comes from out of the mouth of Chancellor Rishi Sunak who says"every job lost is a personal tragedy", as if jobs "lost” are an act of nature and not the act of his mates who cut them.

    Johnson’s “road out” is a road built for the capitalists. It is paved with working class lives and livelihoods. The only “way out” is for the working class majority - eventually - to build its own road, by taking over and running society itself.