England, Wales and Scotland section of International Socialist Alternative

Covid pandemic exposes cruel capitalism

The Covid-19 pandemic is the worst crisis in a generation. The world around us is changing, evolving and the ruling class who have kept the status quo for so long are desperately trying to cling on. They are throwing their weight around and lashing out like an injured animal, but they cannot stop the inevitable.

Workers globally are now being divided – those who are essential and those who are not. Much to everyone’s surprise, the bankers, the investors and the managers who spend their time pleasuring themselves to others misery were not considered essential. Instead, it was those who work the longest hours, for the lowest wages on shop floors, picking fruit and helping the vulnerable who are essential.

Essential. The ruling class have been forced to admit it. We simply would not function without them. If these jobs are so essential that they must work through the biggest health crises for 100 years, why are they plagued with wages that are utterly despicable? One cannot survive on a mere £8 an hour working on a zero hours contract. Yet, without them, the bosses that take so much joy from writing these vile contracts, could not survive.

Those essential workers who are earning well below the real living wage are being forced into work when it is not always safe. They are putting themselves at risk every single day. Every single employee has the right to work in a safe environment. This is enshrined in law. Yet, employers still force workers to work too close and without the correct PPE. Tragically, lives have already been lost unnecessarily. Emanuel Gomes is a cleaner who worked for the Ministry of Justice. They denied him sick pay. He was forced to work for £9.08 an hour. Belly Mujinga, a railway worker was killed after not having adequate protection. She was spat on by a member of the public who had Covid-19. She had an 11-year-old daughter. These deaths were caused by unsafe working conditions. Caused by employers. Caused by capitalism and the drive for profit.

Those who divide and rule will not lose sleep over their workers dying. It probably won’t even reach their Ivory Tower. But the top 1% are facing something far bigger. This is the deepest economic crisis capitalism has faced since at least the 1930s. This crisis was not caused by the working class, yet who is going to end up paying for it?

In 2008, the ruling classes knew they could concede just enough to keep the status quo and to defend their system. It was necessary they shouted about us all having to take a hit as food banks sprang up across the country. We are all in this together they screamed as shareholders continued to profiteer from the crash. But this is different.

Jeff Bezos is on track to become the world’s first trillionaire. A sickening amount of wealth. Yet his workers at Amazon, who generate this wealth, are forced to urinate in bottles as they do not have time to go to the toilet on shift. Richard Branson is asking, begging, the taxpayer to bail out Virgin Atlantic. He owns an entire island. Easyjet employees are facing being made redundant. Stelios just received a £60 million pay-out from the airline. Shareholders are making money in an even more crass way than ever before. And it has not gone unnoticed.

12 years ago, workers looked to the Labour party to help them through the 2008 crisis, despite the disaster that was Brown and Blair. A party that in 2015 elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It appeared as if the party was not dead and had a new leash of life. It had begun to talk like it stood up for the working class – for socialist policies. Now, as we all know, this has changed. The Labour bureaucracy and the right wing in the Parliamentary Labour Party constantly worked against Corbyn.This went so far as the conscious and deliberate sabotage of Labour’s election prospects by senior Blairite staffers and the then general secretary. It’s possible Labour even lost the 2017 election as a direct result.

We know that there is no mainstream party that will stand up for workers. People are dying as a result of capitalism and the workers are seeing there is now no other option. We must not rely on parties that worked against us for so long. We must be revolutionary and fight for fundamental system change. We must fight, strike and show that without us, the world would not turn. The disillusionment of the last decade is now showing. Workers are rising – 2019 was a year of global revolt. They are seeing that we need a better way, and if we do not get it soon, more people will die. Capitalism and the ruling classes will fight tooth and nail to defend their system – no matter what the cost to working-class lives. So we need to fight to finish it off by building a mass socialist movement to fight for a society that works for the millions – not the new trillionaires!


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