Addressing the nation yesterday, six months on from when the UK first entered into lockdown, Boris Johnson conceded that Britons would likely face another six months of measures to suppress the virus, as a second wave hits the country.
“I am more certain than ever that this is a struggle that humanity will win, and we in this country will win,” the Prime Minister announced, with his typical faux-Churchillian rhetoric. “I know that we can succeed because we have succeeded before.”
Viewers were rightly left scratching their heads at such assertions. By what yardstick can the last half-a-year be considered a success?
By every conceivable measure, the pandemic has been a catastrophe under this Tory government. Britain has seen the highest proportion of excess deaths in Europe, with over 60,000 dying as a result of the virus. Tens-of-thousands have needlessly lost their lives in care homes. And the UK economy has experienced its deepest slump on record, with the worst fall in GDP amongst the G7 countries in the second quarter of this year.
Clearly Johnson and his Etonian chums – as ever – have been living on another planet from the rest of us.
Indeed, this much was evident when the PM’s Rasputin-esque advisor, Dominic Cummings, decided to flout government guidelines and go on a 500-mile round trip from London to Durham.
This hammered home the reality of the lockdown regulations: there was – and always is, under capitalism – one law from the elites, and another for the rest.
A “spirit of togetherness”, Johnson implored yesterday, “will carry us through”. But it is clear by now that we’re not “all in this together” – and we never were.
Out of control
Responding to the Prime Minister’s address, Labour leader Keir Starmer accused the Tory leader of “losing control of this virus”.
But, in truth, Johnson and his government have never been in control. Indeed, with their arrogance, incompetence, and callousness, they have only added fuel to the COVID fire.
It was the Tories' pursuit of a flawed ‘herd immunity’ strategy that allowed the epidemic to exponentially increase in the first place. According to scientific estimates, the government’s delay in implementing a national lockdown in March was responsible for doubling the death toll.
Years of Tory austerity and neglect, meanwhile, have left the country ill-prepared to tackle a pandemic.
When the outbreak first hit Britain’s shores, vital equipment – such as ventilators – was sorely lacking. Healthcare workers were left to fend for themselves, provided with neither PPE nor much-needed testing. And with the NHS already at breaking-point, elderly patients were shunted into care homes, which were subsequently ravaged by the virus.
Even journalists at the Murdoch-owned Sunday Times accused Boris Johnson of being asleep at the wheel, as “Britain sleepwalked into disaster”.
Confusion and contradiction
The chaos never stopped, however. And again, the fault lies with the government. From the beginning, the Tories have consistently put the capitalists’ profits before our lives.
This is why they dragged their feet initially when urgent action was required. This is why the bosses were allowed to get away with keeping non-essential industry (such as construction sites and retail warehouses) open, putting workers’ health at risk. And this is why Conservative ministers have recklessly reopened schools, without heeding the warnings of the teachers’ unions.
It is the Tories’ concern for big business, ultimately, that has also led to their endless array of contradictory and confusing messaging.
First we were told to ‘Stay at Home’; then this was downgraded to the meaningless ‘Stay Alert’, as a green light to business. One minute we’re being implored to go into the office (to save city-centre commercial landlords); then, lo-and-behold, the infection rate rises and we’re back to WFH. And most recently, young people have – in almost the same breath – been encouraged to ‘Eat Out to Help Out’, and then admonished for socialising too much!
In recent weeks, it is the government’s test-and-trace system (or lack thereof) that has been the centre of attention.
Out-of-touch Tory ministers have queued up for media appearances, seemingly unaware of what’s going on. Meanwhile, ordinary people are having to travel for miles or wait for days to get tested. No wonder many are refusing to self-isolate, unable to find out whether they are infected; and unable to afford to stay at home.
Of course, what is never mentioned is that it is privatisation in the NHS and cuts to universities that have crippled the country’s testing capacity, at this time of dire need.
Shifting the blame
At every step, the Tories have attempted to divert attention from their disastrous mishandling of the pandemic.
Even in his latest announcement, Boris Johnson tried to shift the blame away from his government, stating that “there have been too many breaches” of the rules. And we can assume he’s not talking about Cummings or the capitalists.
Every group under the sun (including sunbathers) have been accused of helping to spread the virus. Scandalously, some racist Tory MPs have even blamed BAME communities, who have tragically suffered from higher death rates, due to poor social conditions and higher levels of precarious work.
All the while, of course, nobody in the government or the right-wing press has pointed the finger at the real culprits: the Tories and the bosses, who have blood on their hands.
Although further restrictions are now being brought in, this will be no mere repeat of events from six months ago.
For starters, with the furlough scheme winding up, workers are set to face a “tsunami of job losses”. Already, tens-of-thousands have been made redundant across sectors such as retail, hospitality, and aviation. Millions more could join the dole queue if-and-when the government’s wage-support system finishes in a month.
Even the Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that unemployment could peak at almost 10% by the end of the year – possibly only returning to pre-crisis levels by 2022. So much for optimistic hopes of a V-shaped recovery.
Most importantly, consciousness has already dramatically changed. Support for the government has plummeted (with a sharp turning point seen after the Cummings affair). Ordinary people are sick-and-tired of the sight of Johnson and his clique. And this is before the impact of the looming economic collapse even hits home.
Further attempts to rally the nation and emulate the Blitz Spirit will not work. Nor will draconian measures, such as heavy-handed policing, or large fines for those who understandably cannot comply with the ever-changing rules.
The mood everywhere is one of anger. And this is directed, increasingly, towards the Tory government.
But, under Starmer’s right-wing leadership, the Labour Party is failing to connect with this mood, or to channel it against Johnson and the Tories. Instead, we are forced to endure the endless spectacle of Starmer’s ‘forensic’ and ‘credible’ opposition, which amounts to…no opposition at all.
Indeed, the Labour leader stated this in no uncertain terms yesterday. Responding to the PM’s announcement, Starmer assured that he and his party would support the government with whatever steps it deemed necessary. In other words, the Tories are to be rewarded for their incompetence with a blank cheque!
Of course, Starmer’s assurances are aimed not at workers and Labour members, but at his supporters in the establishment. His aim is to present himself as a ‘respectable’ and ‘responsible’ statesman, who can be relied upon by the ruling class, if called upon to serve ‘his country’. After all, he is a knight of the realm.
This is the meaning behind Labour’s latest slogan promising “a new leadership”. Out with Corbynism and class politics; in with reheated Blairism and nationalistic flag-waving. But this is the last thing the working class needs at this time of deep capitalist crisis.
Kick out the Tories! Kick out capitalism!
Amidst all the confusion and chaos, one thing is clear: we cannot trust the Tories with our lives. For all Johnson’s crocodile tears about lives lost and fears of the deadly damage a second wave could cause, we know that he and his big business government only really care about protecting profits.
Lest we forget, this is the same Tory Party that has presided over a decade of brutal austerity; that has happily cut and privatised public services, leaving local councils and the NHS on life support; that has attacked workers’ wages and conditions with total abandon.
Workers and youth cannot afford to bear anymore muted opposition or cosying up to the bosses from the leaders of the labour movement. Instead, Labour and the trade unions must mobilise to put an end to this government of the rich.
The accumulated rage and discontent in society must be channelled and directed forcefully at Boris Johnson and the Tories. They are to blame for the coronavirus crisis.
Only by toppling this blundering bosses’ government can we begin to fight the virus effectively.
We need to put workers in control to make workplaces and communities safe. We need nationalisation and socialist planning in order to tackle the pandemic. And, above all, we need to overthrow the rotten capitalist system, as the only way to provide a way forward out of this impasse.
Kick out the Tories! Kick out capitalism!
Local lockdowns highlight Tory chaos
By Muslim Taseer, Newcastle Marxists
The Tory government misses no opportunity to demonstrate its absolute incompetence and utter disregard for people’s lives. The latest local lockdown in the North East is little more than a bandaid on a bullet hole.
The latest in a string of half-measures, the rules announced last week, on 18 September, include a 10pm curfew for pubs and hospitality venues, and a full ban on socializing in homes and gardens.
These rules are in addition to ‘The Rule of Six’. A funny – but mostly angering – fact about the rule of six is that one of the few activities exempted from it is grouse hunting. If there ever was a better litmus test to see who this government serves, that is it.
It’s absolutely astounding how unimportant human lives seem to be to the Tories, as long as their friends are getting their pockets filled.
By banning socialising in private homes and gardens, but allowing it in much more dangerous areas such as pubs and shops, the government perfectly demonstrates that it only wants socialising if it is good for the bosses.
Profits vs lives
It has been months since this pandemic started. Over 40,000 people have died. And there has been countless suffering as a direct result of the capitalists’ greed.
A proper full lockdown instituted in time initially would have curbed the spread of the virus, and saved countless lives and livelihoods. Things could have been well on their way back to normal by now.
A sensible approach to the virus – in a society not entirely focused on profit – would have meant actual precautions being put into place early on, and without regard for profits. It would have meant financial assistance to people out of work. And it would have beaten the virus by now.
Instead we got flimsy rules, no assistance, and big fat bailouts for the mega-rich. Meanwhile, nurses were tossed aside, denied pay rises after being ‘clapped for’ every week.
We are now at 400,000-plus cases. New cases are rising by over 3,000 every day. And we are in the midst of a second wave – and a second lockdown.
Why did this happen? What possessed the Tories to completely ignore all common sense and guide us down this path? The answer is simple: capitalist greed.
Under the capitalist system, a shutdown of shops and restaurants harms the ‘economy’. It harms the bottom lines of the rich and powerful. And since that is the most important thing, for the Tories, a lockdown was not instituted until it was already too late; and was then lifted too early.
Since then, all restrictions released throughout the summer have been confusing, arbitrary, and plain stupid at some points.
‘Eat Out to Help Out’, the government’s scheme to subsidise those in eating in restaurants and pubs, probably directly helped cause this second spike. Droves of people flocked to restaurants, with huge – not socially distanced – lines often forming outside.
Restaurants were hosting at maximum capacity, with little-to-no actual protection. A few glass screens and a one-way walking system that nobody follows doesn’t really do much. This was nothing more than an attempt to pump cash into the pockets of big business.
Now, mere weeks later, the government has U-turned again. Instead of closing pubs, they have set a 10pm curfew – as if the time of night has anything to do with COVID transmission.
Government of chaos
The government’s dragging out of the situation has also served to completely demoralise and frustrate working people, who are facing the brunt of the hurt from this virus. People are getting tired of following guidance from a hypocritical government that has demonstrated time-and-time again that it only cares about profits.
Now Boris has announced the expansion of these restrictions nationwide. While blaming the populace for ‘not following guidelines’, he has threatened to send in the army to enforce lockdown rules.
Thousands more are falling sick every day. Something has to give. We must mobilise to kick out the Tories and overthrow this government of chaos.