Monday, March 30, 2020

Lock-down Britain

 The partial lock-down announced on Monday will, hopefully, help in stopping the spread of COVID-19. Boris Johnson, who is clearly unfit to hold high office, has finally heeded the advice of the medical community to adopt the sort of emergency measures that the rest of Europe implemented weeks ago. But they still fall well short of the action taken by the Chinese government that has successfully halted the spread of the virus in recent weeks.
Meanwhile the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has announced a whole tranche of reforms to maintain social peace, including a wage support programme for those suspended or on short-time, as well restoring direct control over the rail network and preparing to buy controlling shares in British Airways and other airlines to stave off their complete collapse.
Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: "This is the package of measures that trade unions like Unite have been pressing for as the most effective way to stave off mass hardship and the conditions for a depression.”
The leader of the biggest union in the country said: “The Chancellor has done the right thing and we look forward to working further with him in the coming days to get this money into the hands of those most in need.”
Well, we wouldn’t go that far. State intervention in the transport industry is being dubbed “renationalisation” but it is, in reality, bail-out economics much like the hiring of the entire English private health sector by the NHS for the duration of the crisis.
In the corridors of power in Westminster moves are afoot to clip Johnson’s wings. He’s already been forced to abandon the crackpot “herd immunity” ideas of his Rasputin, Dominic Cummings, which would have led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of vulnerable pensioners who are the mainstay of the Tory vote in the Home Counties these days. Some are now demanding Cummings’ resignation whilst others are calling for a “national unity government” to deal with the health crisis.
At the moment cross-party co-operation is going on through Privy Council procedures that, by their very nature, remain confidential. A ‘grand coalition’ would operate in the public arena and share the burden and, indeed, any blame if the crisis management falters or fails. It would also open the door for the extension of the UK’s European Union (EU) transition period into 2021 on the grounds that, at the moment, existing trade agreements should not be jeopardised. And it would give the Remainers, who haven’t given up the fight, a breathing space to plan their next move to keep Britain inside the EU.
Boosting the health service and saving jobs in the rail and aviation industries is all very well. But is it enough to halt the advance of the deadly virus and stave off mass unemployment?  Only time will tell.
Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, said: “The Prime Minister is right to call for people to stay at home, protect our NHS and save lives. This is the right response to the coronavirus pandemic, and one we have been calling for.
“There now needs to be clear guidance to employers and workers about which workplaces should close – and the Government must close the loopholes to give security to all workers, including the self-employed, as well as renters and mortgage holders.
“We welcome these moves and will be working to ensure everybody has the protection and security they need.”

Belgravia: a Victorian fantasy

by Ben Soton

Belgravia: ITV drama series by Julian Fellowes. Stars: Tamsin Greig, Philip Glenister, Harriet Walter.

Starting on the eve of the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, the drama then jumps 26 years to 1841 without the characters having aged more than a day. The series centres around the Trenchards; James Trenchard (played by Philip Glenister), is a merchant and supplier of food to the British army. We should be reminded of Napoleon’s remark about an army marching on its stomach.
The 1840s, the first full decade of Queen Victoria’s reign, was a time when a number of modern bourgeois sensibilities came about. The period saw the development of construction firms employing a variety of tradesmen; previously customers would hire numerous tradesmen on different contracts.
James Trenchard is associated with this new business model. Anne Trenchard (played by Tamsin Grieg) attends an event where the latest fad, ‘Afternoon Tea’, is being held. We are reminded that an advantage of this practice is that you can circulate and can leave whenever you please; not always possible in the case of a formal meal.
It is at an Afternoon Tea that Anne meets Caroline Countess of Brockenhurst (played by Harriet Walter), as someone on intimate terms with the elite of Hampshire society. The Countess’s son, who was engaged to the Trenchards’ daughter, died at Waterloo. Both the Trenchards’ daughter and the Countess’s son are now dead, but it soon materialises that the family has a secret.
The Trenchards live in Belgravia – a part of London’s West End that was developed as a residential area for the wealthy by the Duke of Westminster during the Victorian era. Brockenhurst, however, is just a village in the New Forest, about 15 miles from Southampton, and there has never been a Countess of it.
This historical drama is the product of Julian Fellowes, the creator of Downton Abbey, ITV’s epic period drama known for showing the ruling class through very rose-tinted spectacles. Fellowes’ depiction of the nouveau riche Trenchards mixing with the likes of Countess Caroline is probably his idea of class-struggle.
In the case of Downton Abbey, whilst depicting the ruling class as quaint or wonderful philanthropists there were some references to the events of the time. These included the First World War, the liberation struggle in Ireland and the death of the Russian royal family. As the 1920s progressed, however, political events seemed to become less frequent.
This drama begins in the 1840s, an era that saw included rapid industrialisation, Chartism at home, famine and unrest in Ireland, and the 1848 Revolutions that swept across Europe. All we get in episode two are brief reference to contemporary Prime Ministers Robert Peel and Viscount Melbourne.
Fellowes, a Tory peer who sits in the House of Lords as Baron Fellowes of West Stafford, sees history from the perspective of the rich with occasional reference to their servants. Events such as those mentioned above are largely incidental and receive only an occasional mention. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Joint statement: Immediate measures to protect the health and rights of the people

Communist and Workers' Parties

Immediate measures to protect the health and rights of the peoples

The Communist and Workers' Parties are positioned with responsibility before our peoples. We are here! We are present at the forefront of the struggle to immediately take all necessary measures to protect the health and safeguard the rights of the working class and the popular strata everywhere!

We extend our heartfelt thanks to the doctors, nurses, the hospital and health units personnel that are fighting this battle facing great difficulties.

We express our solidarity with those affected by the CoVID-19 pandemic and wish them speedy recovery from the disease.

We salute the countries that develep solidarity actions with the most affected countries, such as the sending of protective materials and health professionals from countries such as China, Cuba and Russia, actions that are in stark contast to the absence of the European Union.

The COVID-19 pandemic tragically proves the huge shortages of health systems in all capitalist countries that were known before the outbreak of the coronavirus. These shortages did not occur accidentally, they are the result of the anti-people's policy pursued by governments in the service of the big capital to commercialize and privatize health, to support the profitability of monopoly groups. This policy undermines the great scientific and technological capabilities available today to meet all prevention and healthcare needs of the people.

Today's experience reveals the anti-social and parasitic nature of capitalism and highlights the superiority and timeliness of socialism and central scientific planning based on popular needs, which can secure primary healthcare and prevention, hospitals, medical and nursing staff, medicine, laboratories, medical exams and everything else needed to meet the constant as well as any emergency health needs of the people.

The pre-existing slowdown in world economy is now being furtherly reinforced by the spread of the coronavirus and increasing the risk of a new crisis in the coming period. In spite of the propaganda about "unity", governments in the service of the big capital  focus their financial measures on the support of monopoly groups and will once again seek to throw the burden of the crisis on the workers and the other popular strata. The workers and the peoples cannot and must not pay again!

"Individual responsibility" cannot be used as a pretext to cover state and government responsibility. Today, taking the necessary measures also requires the struggle of the peoples against the policy of supporting the monopoly groups, which sacrifices the satisfaction of the needs and the health of the peoples at the altar of capitalist profitability.

The Communist and Workers' parties demand that all necessary measures be taken immediately to address the epidemic, including the following:
  • Immediate strengthening of public health systems by state funding, recruitment of full-time medical and nursing staff with full labor rights. Meeting all the needs of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and the infrastructure needed for the full functioning of public healthcare and research services.
  • Immediate provision of all necessary means of protection (masks, gloves, antiseptics, etc.) by the state to the people free of charge and fight against profiteering. Provision of all protection measures to all healthcare personnel  giving this battle at the hospitals with sacrifices and at their own cost.
  • Protection of the income and rights of the working-popular strata. To put a brake on the unaccountability of the capital that under the guise of the CoVID-19 epidemic proceeds to massive redundancies and tries to furtherly trample over wage rights, working time, leave from work, and other labor rights. Immediate action to protect workers in the workplace.
  • No to any curtailment of the democratic rights of the peoples under the pretext of the coronavirus.
  • End all sanctions and measures of economic exclusion, which in this situation are even more unjust and criminal and make the life of the peoples in the countries they turn against to even more dificult. To take all necessary measures to protect the health and life of the peoples.
 We say no to imperialist interventions and military exercises, such as those of NATO, and demand that public resources be redirected to support the needs of the peoples, such as the financing of public health and social security systems.

  1. Communist Party of Albania
  2. Communist Party of Argentina
  3. Communist Party of Armenia
  4. Communist Party of Australia
  5. Party of Labour of Austria
  6. Communist Party of Azerbaidjan
  7. Communist Party  of Bangladesh
  8. Communist Party of Belgium
  9. Brazilian Communist Party
  10. Communist Party of Britain
  11. New Communist Party of Britain
  12. Party of the Bulgarian Communists  
  13. Union of Communists in Bulgaria  
  14. Communist Party of Canada
  15. Communist Party of Chile
  16. Socialist Workers Party of Croatia
  17. Communist Party of Cuba
  18. AKEL, Cyprus
  19. Communist Party of Bohemia & Moravia
  20. Communist Party  in Denmark
  21. Egyptian Communist Party
  22. Communist Party of El Salvador
  23. Communist Party of Finland
  24. Communist Revolutionary Party of France
  25. Pole of Communist Revival in France
  26. Unified Communist Party of Georgia
  27. German Communist Party
  28. Communist Party of Greece
  29. Hungarian Workers Party
  30. Communist Party of India
  31. Communist Party of India (Marxist)
  32. Tudeh Party of Iran
  33. Workers Party of Ireland
  34. Communist Party of Ireland
  35. Communist Party of Israel
  36. Italian Communist Party
  37. Communist Party (Italy)
  38. Jordanian Communist Party
  39. Socialist Movement of Kazakhstan
  40. Workers Party of Korea
  41. Socialist Party (Lithuania)
  42. Communist Party of Luxembourg
  43. Communist Party of Malta
  44. Communist Party of Mexico
  45. Popular Socialist Party - National Political Association, Mexico
  46. Nepal Communist Party
  47. Communist Party of Norway
  48. New Communist Party of the Netherlands
  49. Communist Party of Pakistan
  50. Palestinian People’s Party
  51. Palestinian Communist Party
  52. Paraguayan Communist Party
  53. Communist Party of Poland
  54. Portuguese Communist Party
  55. Philippines Communist Party [PKP 1930]
  56. Communist Party of Puerto Rico  
  57. Romanian Socialist Party
  58. Communist Party of the Russian Federation
  59. Russian Communist Workers Party
  60. Communist Party of the Soviet Union
  61. New Communist Party of Yugoslavia
  62. Communists of Serbia
  63. Communist Party of Slovakia
  64. South African Communist Party
  65. Communist Party of Spain
  66. Communist Party of the Workers of Spain
  67. Communists of Catalonia
  68. Galizan People's Union
  69. Communist Party of Sri Lanka
  70. Communist Party of Swaziland
  71. Communist Party of Sweden
  72. Sudanese Communist Party
  73. Syrian Communist Party
  74. Syrian Communist Party - Unified
  75. Communist Party, Switzerland  
  76. Communist Party of Turkey
  77. Communist Party of Ukraine
  78. Union of Communists of Ukraine
  79. Communist Party USA
  80. Communist Party of Venezuela

    Tuesday, March 24, 2020

    Friday, March 20, 2020

    Help those who need it most

    Last week Boris Johnson was telling us that “many more families are going to lose their loved ones before their time” because his government going to allow the deadly coronavirus to spread to about 60 per cent of the population, so that this would develop future “herd immunity” for those who survived.
    This could lead to the infection, in a matter of months, of around 40 million people and some 300,000 to over a million deaths amongst the frail and the elderly. Whilst this didn’t seem to bother the crackpot advisers who surround the Prime Minister, there was an enormous backlash from the medical community and the vulnerable pensioners who are the mainstay of the Tory vote in the Home Counties these days.
    Under pressure from his own back-benchers, Johnson has backtracked to return to a conventional containment policy that Labour supports but argues doesn’t go far enough to deal with the crisis.
    It’s all very well telling the over-70s to stay at home for the next four months but telling them to rely on relatives, friends and neighbours for food and supplies, and expecting the local council to act as the agency of last resort, is largely wishful thinking in boroughs where social services have been cut to the bone. It does nothing but spread panic and despair amongst those who have no-one to turn to.
    It’s all very well introducing a partial lock-down, but what’s to be done about the workers who will be suspended or put on short time as a consequence of the emergency measures to counter the coronavirus outbreak?
    The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, says he’s willing to talk to the TUC about their concerns. But what the unions want is a national taskforce that brings together unions, business and government to co-ordinate support and ensure that measures are being effectively targeted, delivered and accessed by those who need them.
    The TUC’s key demand is that the government provides wage subsidy schemes to support people in jobs, and that businesses and employers should set out Jobs and Fair Wages Plans, agreed with recognised unions. The second is to fix the sick pay system to provide sick pay at a living wage for everyone, including the two million workers not covered by the scheme, along with a refunded benefit system worthy of a country with the fifth largest economy in the world.
    Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, says: “The government must be bold, decisive and do all it can to help those who need it most: those without jobs, those locked in to zero-hours contracts and insecure work, our front-line health workers, the self-employed, and businesses of all kinds across the country who need to know the government is on their side.
    “The market cannot deliver what is needed. Only collective public action led by government can now protect our people and our society and do what is necessary to get us through this crisis.
    “A decade of damaging and destructive cuts means our public services are ill equipped to cope. Too many people are already drowning in debt, trapped in insecure jobs and housing, or left reliant on a broken Universal Credit and benefits system. But no one can be left behind.
    “Every resource we have must be harnessed to help those who need it and to get our whole country through this crisis. Now is the time for collective public action, for the good of us all.”