As the government pulls the economy out of its hibernation, the infection rate is rising. In response, Boris Johnson yesterday announced a string of new regulations limiting social interactions.
Farcically, Tory ministers have attempted to blame young people for the recent rise in COVID-19 cases. They say that too many are congregating in large groups and socialising together.
Yet only weeks ago, the papers and news channels were full of government propaganda encouraging people to ‘eat out to help out’, with images of Tory chancellor Rishi Sunak enjoying a drink in the pub.
In other words, ordinary people have simultaneously been implored to go out (and spend money), but then told off for doing this too much.
At the same time, the Tory press have added to the contradictory messaging by joining in with the big business chorus demanding that people return to city-centre offices. “They [students] are back at work,” the Daily Mail announced on a recent frontpage. “Where’s [the] rest of the UK?”
But the reason for working from home is precisely to control the virus and enable – amongst other things – children to go back to school. Of course, this doesn’t matter to the capitalists and their political representatives, whose primary concern is propping up profits.
After refusing to heed the warnings of teachers’ unions, however, schools are already being forced to close – only a week after reopening – as a result of new recorded cases amongst students. No doubt a similar situation will play out later this month, as university students return to campuses across the country.
All of this shows that we cannot trust the Tories with our lives. Their only focus is on protecting the wealth of the bosses, not the health of the public.
To fight the virus, we need to put workers in control. Teachers and staff must be in charge of decision making in schools and universities, and provided with the resources they need to implement proper health and safety measures. And elected workplace committees should be responsible for deciding when and how offices and industries reopen.
In local communities, networks established to provide aid and support should be given power and responsibility to run and manage their own areas. Those known and trusted in the community are in a much better position to organise and implement just social distancing measures than heavy-handed police and unaccountable ‘COVID-secure marshals’.
As a result of their recklessness, incompetence, and hubris, the Tories have blood on their hands: tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. We must fight to kick out this government of chaos – and to overthrow the ruthless profit-driven capitalist system that they defend.
Marxist Student Federation
This comes on the back of a campaign from the NEU (National Education Union) that warned of precisely such an outcome. Teachers correctly claimed that the authorities had not put enough safety measures in place prior to schools reopening to stop COVID-19 spreading.
Within a week of students returning to schools, teachers’ predictions have been borne out. This comes as no shock.
The decision to reopen schools was never based on scientific evidence regarding safety. Nor was it about the moral imperative of having young people back in education, as Boris Johnson cynically claimed.
Rather, the Tories’ decision to reopen schools in this reckless manner was entirely linked to the needs of the capitalist economy, to get parents (i.e. workers) back to work.
Confused and contradictory
The Tory Party’s whole raison d’être is to defend the needs of British capitalism. And this explains all their actions during the pandemic.
At every turn, Johnson’s government has tried to force the economy to open up as quickly as possible. The result has been a series of contradictory and confusing guidelines, without the provision of adequate safety measures or testing, all flying in the face of advice from scientists and health professionals.
The reopening of schools is no exception to this. Tory ministers have claimed that they’re opening schools in order to make sure students have access to education and don’t fall behind.
Firstly, it should be emphasised that it is Tory cuts and attacks over the last decade that have most damaged the quality of education that students receive.
Secondly, this rush to reopen schools – without the necessary measures in place – was always certain to accelerate the spread of the disease. And, as we’ve seen in Sheffield and Liverpool, the result is that students are now being sent home regardless.
Johnson’s real aim – and one that is not very well hidden – is to get the economy back to normal, on behalf of the bosses and their profits. But this clashes with efforts to control the virus and protect lives.
The government’s hope is that if students go back to school, then parents will go back to work. This, they believe, will help to restart businesses that are struggling to stay afloat – particularly in city centres, which have seen significant reductions in foot fall (and thus spending).
The Daily Mail summarised this Tory strategy with a recent provocative frontpage headline stating: “They [students] are back at work. Where’s [the] rest of the UK?”
But the whole point of people working from home is to reduce the rate of infection, so that students might be able to safely return to school. By encouraging people to commute and go back into the office, the Tories are threatening the very thing they claim to be concerned about – students’ access to education.
The government’s plan has already started to fall apart, as seen by the isolation of students in Sheffield and Liverpool, as well as others in cities and towns such as Leicester, Newcastle, Durham and Bolton.
At least 6 schools in Sheffield have had to send whole year groups back into isolation as positive corona-virus tests are returned by students. This comes as no shock to many teachers and students.— Marxist Student (@MarxistStudent) September 8, 2020
In other words, not only are Johnson and the Tories putting the public’s health at risk for the sake of the capitalists’ profits; but they are incapable of succeeding even by their own standards. As school students are forced into isolation again, parents will have to stay at home, and we’ll be back at square one.
Put lives before profits
The Tories have presided over a series of incompetent errors, U-turns, and chaotic crises in recent months. The recent re-isolation of school students is the latest episode in this circus.
The government is extremely fearful of having to enforce another full lockdown. This would accelerate the collapse of the already broken economy, putting the capitalists’ profits even further at risk.
But as COVID-19 cases soar and the second wave hits, Boris Johnson will likely go one of two ways. Either the economy will be paused and propped up, with the working class presented with the bill in the form of austerity and attacks. Or the false and deadly idea of ‘herd immunity’ will once again be raised by callous big business politicians, as they prioritise profits over lives.
This episode only emphasises why we need a socialist economy where the organised working class is in control, so that decisions can be taken to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of ordinary people – not to protect the profits of the bosses.
Callum Williams, Leeds Marxists
First we had the farcical decision that Muslim families would not be allowed to visit their families, made in an announcement just two hours before the start of Eid celebrations.
Then came Tory MP Craig Whittaker’s shameful and racist interview, where he claimed that “it is the BAME communities that are not taking this [pandemic] seriously enough”.
Desperate to find another scapegoat for their chaotic mishandling of the pandemic, Tory health secretary Matt Hancock has now attempted to lay the blame upon young people for the latest spike in COVID-19 cases.
On Sunday 6 Sept, 2988 new cases were reported country-wide, bringing the seven-day rate to 20 cases per 100,000 people. This is the rate at which other European countries have started considering renewed lockdown measures.
One of the areas on the government’s watchlist is Leeds, which has recorded 32.5 cases per 100,00 people. “House parties and illegal raves” have been cited as a cause for concern, with almost £10,000 worth of fines being handed out last week alone.
However, Leeds city council have stated that cases have been spread out evenly among different communities. They have cited a general increase in ‘leisure activities’ as one of the main causes for the spike. The government’s own ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme has played a major role in this.
In other words, in the same breath, Tory ministers have both encouraged people to go to pubs and restaurants (to keep the economy afloat), and admonished them for going out and socialising too much.
In an attempt to deflect the blame from the government’s incompetency, Hancock stated, in an interview with LBC, that “the rise in the number of cases over the last few days is largely among younger people...especially between 17 and 21”. He added that this “inevitably leads to older people catching it from them”.
The University and College Union (UCU) have rightly condemned Hancock for his hypocritical remarks. “Students have been told to move, live, study and socialise together,” the union correctly stated. “It is totally unacceptable for [Hancock] to try and suggest that they will be at fault for any second wave.”
UCU general secretary Jo Grady also stated that the Tories’ blame game amounts to “a complete shirking of their own responsibility”.
Indeed, if the Tories were seriously concerned about young people spreading the virus, they wouldn’t be so quick to send pupils back into schools and universities without adequate health and safety measures in place. Nor would they be encouraging workers to commute and go back to city-centre offices.
It is blatant that the government’s tactic is to sow division among the public by pointing the finger at one group after another. All the while, they hope that the bosses and landlords will benefit from students and young workers heading into cities, and spending their money in shops, bars and pubs.
And it’s no surprise that young people have now been targeted. After all, support amongst the youth is a lost cause for the Tories.
The government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) predicts that a second wave could kill approximately 85,000 people. When this begins to hit, Hancock and the rest of his morally bankrupt colleagues believe they can sleep soundly, knowing that the blame has once again been diverted away from the real architects of the disaster.
In the same interview, the Tory health secretary urged young people: "Don't kill your gran by catching coronavirus and then passing it on.”
This ‘advice’ is as hypocritical as it is condescending. If Hancock and the rest were legitimately concerned about the lives of the elderly population, then maybe they would care to explain why COVID-19 patients were moved into care homes en masse at the start of the pandemic. This short-sighted move caused the virus to spread like wildfire among sick and vulnerable residents, resulting in thousands of avoidable deaths.
The truth is that the Tories have blood on their hands. And they are mistaken if they think they can wash themselves clean of the blame for this crisis.
People are beginning to see through the web of lies spun by the demagogues in Downing Street. It is our job to cut through this divisive rhetoric, laying the blame squarely on the ruling class and their incompetent representatives in Westminster.
It is not young people but rather the relentless pursuit of profit that is driving case numbers up.
To put an end to the COVID-19 crisis, we must build a militant opposition to the Tories and the capitalist system they uphold. We urge you to join the Marxist Student Federation in this fight!