More than five weeks ago, the Tory government’s SAGE panel of experts warned that urgent steps were needed to stem a second wave of the Covid-19 epidemic.
Top of their list of recommendations was a national lockdown to break the circuit of contagion. Since then, there have been four-and-a-half thousand Covid-related deaths and almost half-a-million new infections reported across Britain. These levels are many times higher than when SAGE first issued its recommendations, with our black and ethnic minority communities being hit particularly hard.
Only now, more than a week behind Wales, is the government in London introducing a lockdown throughout England. This is typical of the shambolic betrayal of the people by a government which has fought hard to put the interests of big business first.
The Communist Party, on the other hand, has been clear from the beginning that supporting the NHS and care homes for the elderly, and protecting people’s jobs, incomes, homes and vital supplies must come before shareholders’ profits.
That is why we said on October 28 not only that a second, short, sharp, all-Britain lockdown was long overdue – but also that its success might well depend on the mass of people, including the self-employed and small businesses, seeing the kind of government measures that will secure their incomes, homes, food, medicines and essential services.
We also made the point that action must be taken to clamp down on employers in low-paid sweatshops and elsewhere who break the Covid protection rules. The best protection of all, of course, is that all workers join a trade union and exercise their right in law to stop the job wherever conditions are unsafe. But there are three even more profound lessons that can be learned from this pandemic.
Firstly, Britain has one of the worst Covid-19 death rates in the world because ten years of Tory under-investment and privatisation have undermined the ability of our NHS, local government, the emergency services and the privatised elderly care system to cope with a crisis of this magnitude.
Secondly, there should be no doubt anymore about who does the vital work upon which our whole society depends – the workers who staff our medical, caring and public services; the workers who produce and distribute our food, medicines and other essential supplies; the workers by hand and brain who develop and sustain the very infrastructure of a modern economy. Not the financial gamblers in the City of London, nor the bankers and big business shareholders who cream off a large share of the wealth created by working people’s labour.
Thirdly, in order to meet the challenges of this and future deadly pandemics, we cannot rely on multinational corporations to produce the hospital and protective equipment, the medicines, the track-and-trace systems and the vaccines that will be so desperately needed.
Their overriding priority is the profits of a few, not the health of the many. The big pharmaceutical companies have grown fat on public money and the NHS for long enough – they should be nationalised and made to serve the public good.
We will emerge from this crisis, albeit with scores of thousands of dead in England, Scotland and Wales and millions more around the world. But even before then, we must fight to protect every job. And we must campaign against Tory government plans to make us – the people, the real wealth creators past and present – pay the bills for this crisis.
That’s why the Communist Party says: Let’s stop wasting more than £100 billion on a new nuclear weapons system that will protect us from nothing! Levy a Wealth Tax on the super-rich and close down their British-run overseas tax havens! And we need socialism – the only alternative to the greed, waste and pollution of capitalism’s big business profit system.
Socialism – a society in which we plan and control our economy, democratically, for the good of all!
Thank you for watching.
Keep safe, and let’s look after each other in our workplaces and communities.