‘Ten years of neoliberal economic and financial policies have done deadly damage to our defences against health and other public emergencies’, the Communist Party declared on Wednesday evening (March 25).
Reporting to an online meeting of the party’s Political Committee, General Secretary Robert Griffiths attacked the past ten years of spending cuts, tax relief for the rich and big business and the outsourcing and privatisation of public services. ‘Almost every capitalist government is now compelled to use methods deployed so effectively by the Chinese authorities to counter the Covid-19 virus, based on state intervention, planning and control of essential industries and services’, Mr Griffiths pointed out.
‘Tragically, in Britain as elsewhere, the capacity of the public sector and our public and emergency services to meet the coronavirus challenge has been severely weakened by the profit-driven, market obsessed policies of recent decades’. He pointed to the European Union as a prime example of the result of economic and financial neoliberalism. ‘It was the EU Commission, European Central Bank and IMF “Troika” which demanded public spending cuts so deep that even Italy’s right-wing government resisted and was replaced by an unelected regime headed by former EU top bureaucrats’, he reminded the Political Committee. Similar cuts had been demanded of Spain, Greece, Portugal, Ireland and Cyprus. ‘Not surprisingly, the Italian government today has condemned the EU for failing to help the Italian people in their desperate hour of need, while socialist Cuba and People’s China are sending medical teams and supplies there to assist them’ he added.
Turning back to Britain, the Communist Party leader said the Tory government was still doing ‘too little, too late’ to combat COVID-19. ‘All necessary resources in the private-sector health, pharmaceutical, manufacturing and hotel sectors should already have been requisitioned to provide all the medical facilities, virus testing kits, safety equipment and accommodation for homeless people and victims of domestic violence needed in this crisis’, he insisted, naming hospitals where front-line staff were still short of ventilation masks and other protective clothing. Some of the world’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are based in Britain, Mr Griffiths pointed out, yet Cuba and China are leading the international effort to develop effective anti-COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
He also urged the labour movement to prepare for ‘huge battles ahead’ in the forthcoming recession, when a Tory government will try to make the working class pay the bills for today’s crisis measures. Britain’s Communists demanded that large workplaces not engaged in essential activities should close and applauded workers in Britain, Ireland, the US and other countries who have taken industrial action to halt unsafe workplace practices.
The CP Political Committee also called upon Britain’s Tory government to extend its 80 per cent wage guarantee fully to all laid-off, contract and self-employed workers; test and release all non-infected non-violent prisoners; impose price controls on essential medical and food products; stop the roll-out of Universal Credit; and ban house evictions during the current emergency. Westminster MPs – many of whom had opposed plans to limit their time by a few days to further delay or sabotage Brexit – were criticised for going into recess for a month when the Tory government’s seizure of emergency powers requires proper democratic oversight and scrutiny.
‘One lesson that must be drawn from this crisis is that Britain’s large military capacity has been useless to defend our people’, Mr Griffiths concluded, ‘which is why a third of the military budget should in future be used to build a civilian emergency service with the trained personnel, equipment and materials that can be mobilised under democratic control to meet the storms, floods, forest fires and epidemics that lie ahead’.