In the first weeks of the new decade the world has been shaken by the emergence of a global pandemic whose consequences, in human or financial terms, cannot yet be measured.
What is certain is that this public health emergency will expose the inability of the world’s political and economic system – capitalism – to prevent, let alone solve, the crises it generates.
The economic paralysis will accelerate the onset of a global economic recession and intensify the mounting conflicts between the great powers.
Over the next 18 months, the capitalist system will grind to a halt; millions will be thrown out of work, and Covid-19 will add hundreds of thousands more to the death toll of those who die every year from famine, poverty and preventable disease.
The crisis will expose the inadequacy of even the “unprecedented” sums being spent by governments to avert collapse, posing the need for greater, truly revolutionary, measures – measures our rulers cannot take because they would threaten not only their profits but their property: banks, factories, retail chains, media empires.
In the coming struggle over how to save their system, and how to offload the staggering costs of its crises onto the backs of working people, an early casualty will be the token attempts by the capitalists to tackle the climate emergency.
As we stand on the threshold of the third decade of the 21st century, all of humanity is menaced by the prospect of ceaseless wars, economic crisis, pandemics – and the inexorable advance of climate change with the existential threat it poses to civilisation itself.
These four horsemen of the apocalypse, now wreaking havoc across the globe, were called forth by the penetration of capitalist exploitation into the four corners of the world, hitting hardest the poor, the dispossessed, and the exploited masses.
These increasingly frequent crises, with growing lethal consequences as the ecological collapse accelerates, are the symptoms of a system in terminal decline; a system that produces enough to satisfy the needs of the whole population many times over, but which concentrates the wealth they create in the hands of a tiny class of billionaire exploiters, and condemns billions to stunted lives, poverty and an early grave.
The origins of this barbarism lie in the social and economic foundations of society. It is the inevitable outcome of a global system in which the collective good is subordinated to private property, in which the anarchy of production for profit takes precedence over production to meet human need, and where both the natural environment and people are mercilessly exploited and crushed under the rule of a privileged minority who defend their privileges with laws, states, armies, and propaganda.
There is no need for hunger, poverty, unemployment or absence of healthcare and want of culture. Human solidarity, and social equality, are the only means of solving the crises of this system; it is the system itself that stands in our way.
The alternative is an internationally planned economy under democratic control where the technological ability at humanity’s command is put to work fulfilling society’s needs. Another world is possible. The alternative to barbarism – is socialism.
In developing the means to combat both the Covid-19 crisis and the recession that it threatens to magnify to a scale greater than that of 2008, we need to lay the foundations of that socialist world – globally planned healthcare, including for the huge numbers presently without it, production of the means of life on the basis of need not profit, democracy and human rights for all, not just for a privileged minority, an economy and society working to restore the natural environment.
For that we need to struggle to overthrow the dictatorship of capital and replace it with the rule of the majority. That requires a strategy that combines defence against the bosses’ onslaught in the medium term with the struggle for workers’ power and a socialist economy. That is what this programme of action – a strategy for working class militants – is for.
The coronavirus is no ‘natural’ disaster. From its first identification to the declaration of a pandemic, every stage of the catastrophe has been shaped by the supremacy of private profit over the common good in every sphere of human life, at every level of our political, economic, and social organisation.
Its context is modern capitalist agriculture and farming, which forces humanity into unsafe, uncontrolled forms of contact and exploitation of nature and animals. One of the destructive results – besides deforestation, soil erosion, pesticide pollution and many others – is the increasing danger of viruses leaping the species barrier to humans. Covid-19 is the latest in a series of such outbreaks; Sars, Mers, Aids, H1N1, Zika, Ebola. Without a fundamental reconfiguration of our priorities and relationship with the environment, it won’t be the last.
These previous outbreaks gave fair warning of today’s crisis. But the domination of the pharmaceutical industry by a handful of giant corporations, with their patents and their “business secrecy”, ensured that research into vaccines was not a priority. Prevention is better than a cure, but when profit is king, prevention is simply bad business. It is far more profitable to concentrate on drugs for treating longer term medical conditions of the wealthier populations in “first-world” markets, than mass producing cures. As a result, 2.3 million children die every year from vaccine-preventable diseases, tens or hundreds of thousands will be killed by Covid-19, and business is booming for big pharma.
Globalisation, with its profit-maximising just-in-time production and world-straddling supply chains, transformed a local epidemic into an international pandemic in a matter of days. In order to offset long term shrinking profit rates the capitalists developed so-called lean production, dispensing with the need for the “dead capital” of warehouse stores. This was applied to services, too, including health, and explains the reduction in reserves for emergencies and the phobia about “empty beds in hospitals”.
At the same time, the fragmentation of the world into competing states, regulatory regimes and institutions, each one acting in the interests of its own ruling class of domestic capitalists, is a colossal impediment to the rapid and coordinated global intervention these crises demand.
The attacks on public services that have been waged by the ruling class for four decades under the rubric of neoliberalism and austerity to pay for the bailout of the banks, has left social security and healthcare systems in the advanced imperialist countries on the brink of collapse. As a result, coronavirus is overwhelming the most advanced health services in the world – for a lack of nurses, doctors and ventilators.
When it reaches the impoverished masses of large parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America its effects are likely to be truly catastrophic. As well as the inequality that capitalism always creates, the masses in these countries also suffer from the oppression imposed by the imperialist domination of the whole world. The regions and countries convulsed by conflicts rooted in the imperialist order, particularly their vast refugee camps and enforced poor migrant diasporas, will be the hardest hit and receive the least assistance.
Aggravating the misery, the outbreak of coronavirus has coincided with an economic recession, whose depth and duration now threatens to rival the horrors of the Great Depression. This combination will throw hundreds of millions out of work, shutter shops and industries, paralyse production, and inflict mass poverty and hunger on whole continents.
The interlinked crises of public health, climate breakdown and economic crisis, can only be solved at an international level, on the basis of democratic co-operation and planning. Therefore, the fight against any one of these crises must be linked to the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism as a system and the organisation of an international socialist commonwealth.
The fact that Britain’s chancellor was forced to announce three separate budgets in nine days exposes the criminal complacency and real priorities of this Tory government.
Despite explicit warnings from epidemiologists and several commissions, the latest in 2016, Britain was caught with a woeful lack of testing kits, intensive care beds, and respirators.
Faced with the reality of a global pandemic, the first response of the government was – do nothing to interfere with the divine right of the capitalists to continue accumulating profits.
As a result, the virus has been allowed to spread uncontrolled in the community, putting hundreds of thousands of lives at risk.
And still the government delays.
Despite the latest measures, non-essential work continues, the rich and middle classes have been permitted to follow the Queen in fleeing the capital for the countryside, spreading the disease and piling intolerable pressure on under-resourced services. Politicians and celebrities are descending on Harley Street to get themselves tested, while nurses and paramedics are forced to work without tests or protective equipment… and pay for parking at hospitals.
The cynicism of the ruling class clique responsible for this crisis is demonstrated by their condemnations of people for failing to observe ‘social distancing’. If people have failed to take the crisis seriously, it is because neoliberalism has promoted the nihilist cult of individualism, and the government has been flaunting its own complacency in our faces.
From the beginning, the actions of the British government have been determined by its strategy for reviving British capitalism. The ideology that drove Brexit, the belief that, while some firms would undoubtedly go bust, those that did not would be stronger and capable of competing with the best in the world, also lay behind the do-nothing response to the coronavirus threat.
Johnson and Dominic Cummings, the Rasputin creature running his government, have reduced an enormous social menace down to a question of individual responsibility. By advising people to stay at home if they felt unwell, when it was already known from China that at first Covid-19 shows no symptoms, they ensured its rapid proliferation across the country. This was neoliberalism applied to epidemiology and the result is a crisis, just as it was when applied to economics.
It was the modelling carried out by the Centre for Infectious Diseases at Imperial College, based on data from the Italian outbreak, that first revealed their policy could lead to 250,000 deaths and would quickly overwhelm the NHS. And, just as with the economy, when reality intruded, shattering their ideological fantasy, all kinds of liberalism went out of the window and they reached instead for the certainty of state power.
True to form, their first priority was to use that power to safeguard their wealth and that of their supporters. Literally hundreds of billions of pounds, which could not be found to finance health, education and social services only months before, were poured into subsidising firms with loans, credit lines, tax breaks and even free grants to small businesses. In his first “ground breaking” relief package, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, included a three month pause for mortgage holders – but did not even mention those paying rent, let alone propose any relief for them.
Faced with the enormity of the crisis, experts have been imploring the government to limit the economy to essential services and production. Acting on behalf of capital, however, the government is caught between ensuring the minimum interruption to production and profit-making, protecting national capital at the expense of its rivals but, at the same time, preventing a collapse of social order which could imperil popular confidence in the government, and threaten the foundations of this system itself.
Having delayed its response while it worked out what was in its long term interest, the government has now been stampeded into an increasingly authoritarian stance, imposing the lockdown it should, and could, have imposed weeks ago. As the NHS becomes unable to cope with the pressure, ordinary people will be blamed for having failed to isolate sooner. The government must not be allowed to deflect its criminal responsibility for the disaster onto the victims!
Like every other government, Boris Johnson’s has been motivated above all by the guiding instinct of the class he represents – the instinct to protect profits, and in particular, to protect the profits of the banks, the insurance industry, and the big multinationals. That’s why the lockdown is not a genuine lockdown. Millions of workers will still be forced to work and travel, contracting the virus, infecting their families, falling ill, dying.
Alongside the restrictions on movement, we will now see the government pressed by business to take objectively necessary measures. These will include nationalisation of some sectors, enforcement of production priorities in industry (production of testing kits, protective clothing for medics and ventilator machines, etc.) and even the requisitioning of private property such as clinics and hotels.
Such measures are eloquent proof of the need to remove the privileges of private property in order to achieve social priorities. Certainly, it would not be the first time that a British government took such steps in order to safeguard the long term interests of private property more generally.
But, just as in 2009, when trillions of pounds were found to bail out the banking system and prevent a total meltdown of the economy, the bill for the billions now being conjured up to save their system will be presented sooner or later. The bosses don’t intend to pay – and the Tories don’t intend to make them.
Anyone can catch coronavirus, but as for paying for the cost of the crisis – we’re not all in this together. One of the objectives of a working class strategy to fight the coronavirus crisis is to build a movement that will ensure the gains of social ownership are not rolled back again, once the crisis is over. We say: we won’t pay for their crisis – now or tomorrow!
This crisis has ripped the veil from the real workings of capitalism, starkly exposing a system unable either to prepare for the crisis or to efficiently mobilise the resources to meet it. It has made real in the most urgent manner the division between a class of bosses seeking bailouts to maintain their profits and a class of workers heroically staffing the health services, keeping food supplies and essential services running, and maintaining social cohesion and solidarity in our communities.
In short, the crisis has exposed how the class of direct producers, the working class, are obstructed in the organisation and reproduction of social life by the fetters of private property – the legal dictatorship which guarantees the supremacy of the capitalist class that plays no useful rule in social production.
It is this reality of class division in society that the Tories are desperately trying to obscure with their propaganda about a ‘national emergency’. This is a crisis of their own making. All their measures are devoted to rescuing and restoring a system which is exploitative and deadly for the majority. Workers have no interest in helping our exploiters maintain this system.
Unfortunately, the leadership of the working class is more interested in demonstrating its loyalty and willingness to deliver social harmony during this emergency, than ensuring that those who profit from this system pay for its crisis – let alone fighting for the revolutionary measures needed to escape the cycle of crisis. Indeed, the possibility of drawing Labour into a “government of national unity” in order to maintain order if the crisis really threatens social stability has already been floated in some quarters.
The TUC’s Frances O’Grady has congratulated herself and the government for organising the biggest bailout of employers since the Second World War. Those workers who keep their jobs do so at the expense of the taxpayer – along with a 20 per cent pay cut. The five million self-employed get nothing. Workers on zero hours contracts who have their hours slashed are not entitled to the grant. Whatever grants that are made will be paid for by the taxpayer – not a whisper of making the bosses pay their share.
The willingness of the trade union leaders to support capital’s self defence measures underlines the need for the members of those unions to organise their own self defence. Within the unions, it will be necessary to mobilise the rank and file membership to take action not only to defend their interests now but to prevent any offensive by the bosses in the future.
Labour’s initial reaction was summed up by shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth’s statement that “throughout this whole national emergency we have been broadly supportive of the Government”. Too right – and too wrong!
In the context of the deepest social crisis and emergency since the Second World War, the Labour Party and the unions can and should exert powerful pressure against every aspect of Johnson’s policy that does not directly benefit the great majority of society.
Jeremy Corbyn has put forward demands which are already having an effect saying; “every worker should have sick pay from day one; including the self-employed people”; demanding “breaks from paying their mortgage or rent, with no threats of eviction”, “raising sick pay in line with the rest of Europe” and reducing the five week wait for Universal Credit.” These are necessary but inadequate demands, and Labour, with the support of the unions, needs to go a lot further.
In the here and now, we can take measures to alleviate the immediate symptoms: immediate halt to all non-essential work; expropriation of key industries under workers’ control; massive provision of testing and of protective equipment; price controls and rationing of essential goods.
Germany, which has been hit as hard by the infection as Britain, undertook mass testing and social distancing while Johnson and Cummings were relying on “herd immunity” and quack psychologists. While the pandemic has hit Germany with full force, its deployment of mass testing, its greater number of intensive care beds per head means in mid-March it had the lowest mortality rate in the EU, 0.3% compared with 4.6% in the UK.
But solving the crisis instead of postponing it means fighting for measures which confront the underlying problem: the private dictatorship over the economy exercised by the capitalist class.
These measures need to draw in ordinary working people to plan and carry out the changes we need and in doing so transcend the rules and laws of the market and the bosses’ state. We do not need draconian police powers, we need workers’ control, planning, social solidarity and internationalism.
Instead of surrendering the initiative to the capitalist state, which can only view lives as collateral damage in the defence of its system, we need to fight for a working class response to the crisis based on the principle of political independence, and class struggle.
Meeting the present challenge means laying the foundations of global and national epidemiological research, pharmaceutical and health care systems which can combat even more deadly epidemics, while renovating the agriculture and environmental practices that create them.
That ultimately will require abolishing capitalism, creating a system based on planning and producing for need, protecting the environment, and reorganising society – in short, socialism. It is with this goal in mind that the labour movement must develop a strategy to fight this crisis.
The government cannot be relied on to prioritise the lives and wellbeing of ordinary people in its response to the crisis. By refusing to enforce testing and social distancing sooner, it has exponentially increased the spread of coronavirus.
By starving the NHS of funds, the government has also starved it of tens of thousands of staff. In its single-minded pursuit of Brexit, the government and its chauvinist supporters on the streets have driven many thousands more EU health workers out of the country.
By imposing privatisation, PFI, outsourcing, and the internal market on the NHS, the government has implanted waste, duplication and profiteering into the fabric of the health system.
Beds and ventilators can be procured in days: the trained professionals needed to use them cannot.
In every other area of the economy, of public and private life, material waste, inequality, and the degradation of the human spirit has flourished in the petri dishes of free market anarchy.
Those who run and profit from this perverse system, which cannot even rouse itself to eradicating child poverty, or housing the homeless, cannot be trusted to solve the crisis in 12 years, never mind 12 weeks.
After months of delay and contradictory advice, they now demand unthinking obedience as the capitalists reorganise hospitals, schools and factories to meet the new demands of this ‘war’, and the government grants itself authoritarian powers to enforce its strategy.
Instead of surrendering the initiative to the government and its agents in the trade union bureaucracy, a working class response to the crisis starts from the fight to extend democratic control over those institutions at the centre of the response.
This crisis cannot be met solely by the work of NHS, care, emergency service, education, and transport workers. It needs the involvement of the initiative and creativity of all working people in research, production and distribution to achieve the maximum results.
This requires workers to demand oversight of the management and the right to veto all unnecessary tasks and prioritise work that addresses the crisis. Plans need to be drawn up in all workplaces where such activities are ongoing.
In this crisis, business secrecy is a privilege we can no longer afford; workers should open the books of every firm to ensure funds are being allocated to where they are most needed.
In order to have confidence in the organisation of the economy for this fight, we need to establish democratic control over the banks, industry, transport and public services.
In every workplace elected representatives of employees should ensure:
• A workers’ veto over all elements of production, working practices, and sackings.
• Strict adherence to protective health and safety measures.
• Immediate closure of all non-essential work with no loss of pay and guaranteed return to work.
• Immediate transition to a four-day week with no loss of pay.
• The TUC should issue a daily online and physical bulletin distributed to all households with the latest NHS advice and examples of how workers are tackling the crisis.
The task is twofold. First to take measures to protect the health, welfare and financial security of the working class, during the twin economic and health crises, paid for by the class of super-rich billionaires. Second to reject half measures that will be reversed as soon as possible by the Tories. Instead we need to link immediate demands to measures which uproot the system of private ownership and production for profit. It is this system that is generating ever deeper and wider social crises of environment, biology and economy.
• Protect the people: institute mass testing starting with essential workers and the vulnerable; scrap prescription charges, abolish NHS charges for migrants; keep schools open for children of essential workers only; maintain and extend provision of free school meals.
• Healthcare for all: cancel PFI deals without compensation, end the internal market; nationalise the pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturers under workers’ control; immediate pay rise for all NHS staff to real pre-austerity levels; full bursary and living grants or full pay for trainee health and social care workers.
• No privileges for the rich: expropriate private hospitals and clinics, no private testing.
• Immediate closure of immigration detention centres and access to housing and benefits.
• Equal access to healthcare for prisoners.
• Sick pay at full pay or £15 per hour – whichever is greater – paid from day one for full time, part time and self-employed workers.
• Protect our jobs: ban on all redundancies and furloughs/unpaid leave for 18 months. Nationalise firms that sack workers, withhold pay or declare bankruptcy, without compensation.
• Suspend rent, mortgage and utility payments for 18 months.
• Nationalise and cancel personal debt.
• Real social security: universal credit at the level of the living wage for unemployed, disabled, and part time workers. Abolish zero hours and fake self-employment contracts.
• Food for all: shop and distribution workers to organise rationing of essential goods.
• Retirement at 60 on full pension or the living wage, whichever is greater.
• Massive provision and expansion of support to women’s refuges.
• Massively expand recruitment and training of children’s services, assistance to foster carers and children’s homes.
• 100% tax on incomes over £150,000.
• Down with profiteers: Massive fines and confiscation of the property of profiteers.
• Fix prices for essential goods and raw materials, under the control of trade unions and community solidarity committees.
• Four day week with no loss of pay for all workers.
• Immediate ban on outsourcing; all outsourced workers to be brought in house on equal pay with contracted staff.
Since February, across the country, in every neighbourhood, borough and community, working people have been organising in the face of official contempt and complacency.
As ordinary people and businesses were left to take matters into their own hands, mutual aid groups emerged to organise shopping runs and contact to combat the criminal negligence of the government.
Trade unionists and socialists are organising informal support and communication networks to disseminate advice about employment rights and coordinate responses to employers who, thinking only of their own pockets, have used the crisis to lay off tens of thousands of workers.
The government’s refusal to provide timely and comprehensive financial and legal guarantees for employees, particularly for the millions on insecure, temporary or bogus self-employed contracts in the retail and hospitality sector, means that closures, layoffs without pay, and even sackings are inevitable.
If some companies manage to stave off redundancies during the immediate crisis, the onrushing global recession is going to land a hammer blow on top of them. There will be no bailouts for the small businesses that employ the majority of UK workers.
Austerity has already gutted social services, along with care for the elderly and vulnerable in the community, leaving millions unable to access accurate advice and information and essential services.
Now the government has condemned millions more to suffer illness, social isolation and financial hardship – with no end or relief in sight. Tens of thousands may die. Millions of workers are simply expected to carry on working, exposing themselves and infecting others – or choose the dole and homelessness.
• Flying pickets to close all non-essential workplaces to enforce the lockdown.
• Local authorities to requisition all empty properties to house the homeless and reduce the waiting lists.
• Provision of two meals a day for children in poverty or in receipt of free school meals.
• Keep the schools open as crèches for the children of emergency and essential workers.
• Compulsory contributions from large supermarkets of household staples for foodbanks under community control.
• Organisation, under appropriate conditions, of physical and cultural outdoor activities in parks and open spaces to combat social isolation and relieve pressure on women in the home.
• Occupation of any business sacking workers or imposing enforced unpaid leave as a consequence of the crisis.
• The establishment of community stewards’ organisations under democratic control to prevent evictions, prevent racist scapegoating, and smash fascist organisations and initiatives wherever they emerge.
When the stringent lockdown measures are lifted, hundreds of thousands will be unemployed, the physical infrastructure, and physical and mental wellbeing of our communities, will have been pushed beyond breaking point.
It is vital that there is no return to business-as-usual.
Trade unions and local Labour parties should urge their members to volunteer for mutual aid groups, but in order to assert the priorities of the working class we need to go further.
After the lockdown, trade unions and local Labour Parties and socialist organisations should take the lead in setting up councils of action at a municipal level, composed of elected delegates from workplaces and local communities. These committees should coordinate with local authorities and public services in drawing up Emergency People’s Budgets to reverse the effects of austerity, defend against the consequences of the recession, and establish a regional and national coordination to fight for a government that defends the interests of working people.
As the crisis progressed, employers rushed to demand that the government and the Bank of England intervene, casting aside their usual free market principles. As businesses and even whole industries face bankruptcy and closure, there is even talk of nationalisation, temporary of course, to save vital parts of the transport system and infrastructure. The appeal for private production of ventilators shows the inadequacy of the private system for dealing with the crisis.
As happened in two world wars, the government may be forced to do this. In any case it is now clear not only that the health service must remain in the hands of the state (and the outsourced and privatised parts returned to it) but that the economic role of the state is essential, even in a capitalist economy. But, as long as profit rules the national and global economies, these measures are state capitalist ones not socialist ones – designed to save their system from itself. To turn them into measures of transition to socialism we need to break the bosses’ control and the billionaires’ ownership.
In the fight for immediate relief from the crisis we need to aim at measures which remove the capitalists’ dictatorship over the economy and overcome the anarchy of the market and production for profit, which enriches a minority. We need to replace capitalism with an economy based on common ownership and democratic planning organised to meet the needs of the people and environment:
• Nationalise the banks, insurance companies and finance houses without compensation and under working class control. Merge them into a state investment bank which will decide democratically where to allocate resources, in the interests of the millions, not for profit.
• Impose capital controls; monopoly of foreign trade.
• Nationalise the supply chains of all food and essentials from point of production to distribution: utilities, communications, and public transport, medical and pharmaceutical companies, sanitation.
• All logistics and courier firms should be nationalised into a single company, under workers’ control, to work with local and national government planning boards to deliver essential goods.
• Nationalisation of the pension funds; guarantee existing workers’ pensions at a living wage or above.
• All nationalised, publicly owned enterprises to be managed and controlled democratically by the workers and users, under a democratic planning board.
• Nationalise all firms declaring redundancies or refusing to pay the minimum wage or respect a maximum 35-hour working week.
• Fight climate catastrophe. Nationalise the energy companies without compensation and slash utility bills. Phase out nuclear power and end the reliance on both nuclear power and fossil fuels with a massive investment in sustainable energy and an integrated transport policy. For a major programme of spending on flood defences.
• Democratically establish a plan to meet the challenge of climate change, pandemics, austerity and economic competition leading to war
Britain’s great wealth has been accumulated through its 300-year history as a colonial and imperialist power.
The City of London has spun its web over the whole world, organising tax havens, siphoning off vast profits for tax-dodging multinationals and laying waste and impoverishing whole continents.
This huge wealth, of which British workers only receive the crumbs, are the fruit of a policy of military, political and economic subordination of the semi-colonial world.
The disaster unfolding in the richest countries of the world, with the most advanced healthcare in human history, is incomparable to that faced by countries whose social cohesion and political institutions have been ravaged by the triumphant march of neoliberalism. The economic war waged on the semi-colonial world is now a biological war.
As an immediate measure to provide emergency assistance to the global south, and as a step towards the dismantling of the imperialist order, we demand:
• The closure of all tax havens and the expropriation of the wealth hidden in them.
• Confiscation of the foreign profits of all multinational firms. The funds raised should provide a solidarity fund for poor countries under the control of joint committees of workers’ and peasants’ representatives.
• Immediate cancellation of all foreign debt.
• Immediate end of all sanctions and blockades, with reparations funded by taxing the multinationals.
• Empty the refugee camps; organise the safe transfer, housing, and employment of all refugees across Europe under the control of their organisations and trade unions.
• Cancel the patents of big pharma, provide financial and technical assistance for the production and prescription of generic drugs.
• Suspend the Brexit transition: For A Socialist European Federation. The limitations of the capitalist European Union are not an argument against integration but a demonstration of the urgent imperative to unify Europe’s resources on the basis of socialist cooperation and internationalism.
The government is gambling that a short-term shutdown will control the spread of the virus and limit economic disruption. But, even if this proves to be the case, the world will still be facing an economic crisis of potentially historic magnitude. That was already developing before the world had ever heard of Covid-19.
The fact that this economic spasm will destroy millions of jobs, and leave huge productive forces standing idle while the world battles coronavirus is a damning indictment of capitalism. The fact that billions are facing the coronavirus with scarcely the shadow of a health service is a condemnation of imperialism and its grotesque global inequality.
The underlying crisis will not go away, even if the government’s measures ensure the health emergency abates in the short term. The intractable economic stagnation since 2008, sharpening great power rivalries, and looming climate crisis will continue to deepen. Climate change will have a multiplier effect on the generation and spread of epidemics in the decades ahead.
Their system condemns us to a terrible future: a cycle of intensifying ecological, biological and social disintegration. We reject this fate!
If we leave Johnson and his cronies in power, once the crisis subsides, the more the state has spent to meet it, the more vicious will the bosses’ offensive be to recoup their losses and make us pay, just as they did after the 2008 Great Recession.
The class of billionaire exploiters are already demanding – and receiving – bailouts from their governments and sacrifices by the majority to return the world’s economy to profitability under their control and ownership.
Any measures the government is forced to take to limit the right of capital will be reversed as quickly as possible and revealed to have been taken solely in the interest of propping up the system of exploitation.
The task of working class militants in this struggle is to fight for a strategy that can prevent the rolling back of social ownership and establish reforms on a permanent basis.
Ultimately, the struggles over what measures to take, in whose interest they are taken, and who will pay for them are one part of a bigger struggle over how society uses its wealth and, thus, over who rules in society.
The longer the crisis goes on, the more the fundamental contradiction of capitalism is exposed: production is dependent on the ever more integrated labour of hundreds of millions all over the world, but the huge wealth created is owned and controlled by a tiny class of billionaires.
The magnificent work of research scientists, doctors, nurses, and those workers that kept us fed and all essential services running, show that the creativity and the skills are there in abundance to plan and run an economy “for the many not the few”.
Yet private ownership and control of the source of society’s wealth stands in the way of taking the urgent measures necessary to tackle the crisis.
It is the increasingly urgent need to remove that control, so that the wealth can be used in the interests of the whole of humanity, without destroying the natural basis of life itself, that shows the need for a revolutionary break with this system.
The explosion of social solidarity – equally matched by the venality of the bosses – shows the basis for the future social organisation of a radically different, democratic economy and state.
In our way stand the governments and states of the ruling class which have been created to defend their power. Whatever formal political democracy exists is subordinated to the dictatorship that the capitalists exercise in the economic sphere.
To put an end to this perverse system, which rewards the exploiters and oppresses the producers, we need to take up the struggle for democratic control over the economy, in order to plan production to meet the needs of humanity and the environment.
But for as long as the real power of the state – the police, the army, and the judiciary – remains firmly in the hands of the billionaires and their agents, then their ownership of the banks, industry, commerce and the media is safe.
That means taking up the struggle for state power, to create an anticapitalist working class government, based on a revolutionary form of democracy, which can take dictatorial measures against the minority of capitalists in order to defend our right to allocate resources on a socialist basis.
The 2019 election, which brought Johnson to power, was part of the proof that our rulers will not calmly relinquish power over the state or the economy. A united front of all the papers and politicians opposed to even the limited reforms Corbyn promised and the fear he might not support their foreign military adventures, meant they mounted an unprecedented slander campaign that Labour proved unable to oppose.
Even if we were to successfully elect a workers’ government determined to carry out a thorough socialist transformation, the immense economic power of the bosses will be used to undermine any workers’ government, unless and until workers seize control of the factories, banks, supermarkets and offices.
To expropriate the banks and big corporations, and resist the inevitable violence of the ruling class, a workers’ government would need the armed force to make its decisions count.
In the end only a revolution that breaks up the machinery of repression, undermining the discipline of the army, winning over the rank and file soldiers, arming the people and creating a workers’ militia, will be able to impose its will.
To carry out measures in the interests of the majority, and not become an elite in its own right, the government would need to be made up of recallable delegates from councils of action representing all working people, without privileges for anyone.
On this basis it will finally be possible to plan the economy democratically, taking giant steps to abolish poverty, exploitation and social inequality.
With power in the hands of the millions we will raise the call to the workers of the world to take British-owned enterprises abroad into their own hands, and extend the revolution across the globe, to eradicate the exploitation of the working class, the oppression of women, national and sexual minorities, racism and war, and to open the road to the classless and stateless society of the future – communism.