Sunday, December 06, 2020

Tiers for Fears

The second national lockdown has ended with the news of a dramatic fall in the Covid-19 infection rate throughout the country and the start of a vaccination programme that will, hopefully, turn the tide in the battle against the coronavirus plague.
     But hundreds of people are still dying every day and lockdowns supported by the Government’s third-rate track and trace service will remain the only way to combat the plague until the vaccine gets out to the vast majority of the population
     The Health Minister, Matt Hancock, somewhat optimistically says Britain will be through Covid-19 "by spring" after the first people are given vaccines from Monday while Boris Johnson, with uncharacteristic caution warns us not to get our hopes up for getting the new coronavirus vaccine soon.
     The roll-out will start with the vulnerable care home staff and residents and then cover the rest of the population in stages starting with the over 80s. There’s talk within the corridors of power of a return to normality by next spring. That clearly depends on the efficacy of the vaccine.
     Whatever happens the “normality” of the post-coronavirus environment will largely depend on the strength of the labour movement. The unions have shown their willingness to work with the Government to protect health and jobs during the emergency. Whether this will continue clearly depends on the Johnson government’s willingness to continue the consultation process with organised labour.

tackling unemployment

Young workers have been hit hard by the economic impact of the Covid-19 crisis. They have experienced the highest rates of redundancy, largest falls in employment, highest rates of furlough with reduced pay, largest falls in weekly pay, and the largest falls in hours worked. The lockdowns have also led to significant job losses in sectors like hospitality and leisure which employ many young workers.
     The Government’s Kickstart employment scheme has got off to a shaky start. Though supported, at least in principle, by the TUC, the scheme is just a rehash of old cheap labour work schemes like Labour’s Youth Opportunities Programme that began in the Wilson-Callaghan era of the 1970s and its successors like the Tory Youth Training Scheme in 1983 and the Blair’s New Deal “workfare” programme that began in 1998.
     The problem hasn’t been totally ignored by Labour. Jonathan Reynolds, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary recently said that: ““…latest figures show the Government’s Kickstart scheme is failing to deliver for young people, creating opportunities for just 3 per cent of the 600,000 young people unemployed. The Government must be much more ambitious if we are to prevent a generation scarred by long term unemployment. It is worrying that months into this jobs crisis we still have no plan from this Government to tackle rising unemployment and get Britain back to work”.
     But these days Labour’s alternative amounts to little more than claiming that they can run the economy on its existing lines more efficiently than the Conservatives. This was the mantra of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown during a boom that Brown thought would last forever. It’s a mantra that has been repeated by every successive leader of the Labour Party, apart from Jeremy Corbyn, despite the fact that we have not even recovered from the slump of 2007.
    But we are not, as the Tories and Blairites claim, all in it together nor do we have a stake in ensuring that capitalism survives. There’s no trickle‑down effect. All that workers get from the capitalist table is the crumbs, so while capitalism survives there will always be a fight to increase and defend the share that workers get from capitalism. But in the long term the only way to ensure that this share is maintained and improved, and not to have to defend it time and time again, is by fighting for working class state power, the dictatorship of the proletariat.
    It’s either them or us; the workers or the bosses. The alternative to working class state power is increasing exploitation, racial and communal strife, rapid growth in crime, drug trafficking, violence and conflict from local to international levels. The capitalists must not be allowed to destroy society. It is they who must be supplanted.

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