The response of the British and European governments to the Covid-19 outbreak demonstrates the failure of neo-liberalism and the market economy. The British government’s response in particular seems to be chiefly based on social Darwinism: the ‘survival of the fittest’. Boris Johnson is clearly putting the needs of capital first. The policy of acquiring ‘herd immunity’ (although now officially abandoned) and the failure to introduce wide-ranging testing has allowed the infection to spread uncontrollably. Having been starved of vital funds by successive governments for decades, the NHS is unable to cope.
Thousands have already lost their job or are being asked to take unpaid leave. Having been driven into “self-employment” by the gig economy, millions of workers are not even eligible for statuary sick pay (a measly £94.25/week) and forced to continue working even though they might suspect they are ill. Many will lose most, if not all, of their income.
This health crisis is turning into a huge social, economic and political catastrophe before our very eyes.
As a party with over 500,000 working class members the Labour Party has a unique opportunity to strengthen working class organisation and solidarity in our communities. It also has the responsibility to step up to the crisis and to develop some serious strategic answers and demands.
We, the undersigned, urge all Labour Party members, branches and CLPs to get involved in setting up Mutual Aid societies and to help transform them into political centres of opposition to the government’s irresponsible policies. Details on existing groups and how to set one up are posted and updated here on Facebook. If you are not on FB, let us know where you live and we’ll try to get you in touch with your nearest group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Labour Party currently demands “decent sick pay for all workers, rent and mortgage holidays for people affected, suspension of sanctions and the five week wait for Universal Credit, and support for foodbanks via local authorities.” The party is also preparing a law which would mean any non-payment of rent due to coronavirus would not count as legal grounds for eviction.
These are decent demands – but they far from enough to stop millions of people of sliding into unemployment, poverty and despair. Much more is needed – and urgently so!
For a start, the Labour Party now must urgently develop its own media outlets. We need articles, videos and podcasts that can counter the daily government briefings. These would also help us to organise an effective opposition, on the ground and in the communities.