Britain could well end up with the highest Covid death rate in Europe, fuelling the accumulating anger at the government’s handling of the crisis. While the union tops have largely vacated the field and Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership election was a victory for the capitalist establishment, that anger will find an outlet in a society being turned upside down by the crisis. HANNAH SELL writes.
surface Britain’s government did not seem the worst prepared for the corona
pandemic. Prime minister Boris Johnson had led the Tories to election victory
just three months earlier with the biggest parliamentary majority for the
Conservative Party since 1987. In 2019 Britain had been found to be the second
best prepared for a pandemic of 190 countries, beaten only by the US. As the
pandemic has developed, however, while no government has taken the necessary
measures to fully defend the working class from its effects, Britain has had
one of the most ineffectual responses of the major capitalist powers.
An internal Labour
Party report, leaked to the British media over the Easter weekend in April, has
detailed sabotage by senior party officials of the attempts by former Labour
leader, Jeremy Corbyn, to radicalise Labour policies. It accuses senior party
officials of working for Labour’s defeat in the 2017 general election.
The report, a mammoth 851 pages long, is entitled
‘The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism,
2014-2019’. It quotes from transcripts of thousands of emails and WhatsApp
discussions between Labour’s senior officials, particularly in the 2015-2018
era before the appointment of the current general secretary, Jennie Formby.
role will the state play in the post-pandemic world? That question is posed by
the economic measures, but also by the major powers granted in the new coronavirus
Behind the ‘all in it together’ national unity line,
capitalist governments world-wide are beefing up their powers to deal with the
increased class struggle that is widely predicted. As IMF chief economist Gita
Gopinath put it: “If the crisis is badly managed and it’s viewed as having been
insufficient to help people, you could end up with social unrest”. There is no
if about it.
the heroic efforts of healthworkers the NHS has been ill-prepared to cope with the
coronavirus pandemic. But the roots of this lie in years of neo-liberal
policies, including the marketisation drive of the New Labour governments of
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, argues JON DALE.
years of ConDem coalition and Tory austerity left the NHS ill-prepared for the
sudden huge increase in very ill patients suffering from Covid-19. Over 100,000
unfilled staff posts (one in twelve), 17,000 fewer beds to their lowest level
ever, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) stockpiles run down –
these resulted from annual 1% funding increases when 4% was needed just to
were aggravated by years of upheaval following Tory Health Secretary Andrew
Lansley’s Health and Social Care Act (2012). This caused such disruption to
services that even his successor, Jeremy Hunt, was forced to row back on some
of its measures. Lansley wanted NHS services provided by ‘any willing provider’
– private companies who would tender to win contracts. In a dire financial
situation the lowest tenders were always likely to be picked, whatever the
price in terms of quality. The drive towards privatisation has weakened NHS
capacity to respond to Covid-19’s challenge.
striking political development in Italy arising from the 2007-08 financial
crash was the rise of the populist Five Star Movement, which emerged as the
biggest single party with over ten million votes in 2018. But now the bubble
has burst and, with anger rising as the coronavirus crisis ravages Italy, the
task for the workers’ movement to build its own party is urgently posed.
CHRISTINE THOMAS draws the lessons from the Five Star episode.
March 2018 general election, the Five Star Movement (M5S) secured a national
vote of nearly 33%. In the ten years since comedian Beppe Grillo’s online
followers began tentatively to stand candidates in elections, it went from a
small, fringe protest group to become the most voted party in Italy, and one of
the most successful populist parties internationally. Two years later, its
support had fallen by more than 50%.
As the coronavirus crisis
ravages Italy, M5S is in the governing coalition with the capitalist Democratic
Party (PD), and various split offs from the PD. Even before the crisis, on 22
January, its then leader Luigi Di Maio resigned – the equivalent of a captain
leaving a sinking vessel. Almost 30 MPs and senators had already jumped ship or
been pushed overboard.
Which firm bankrolls the destruction of the planet? JP Morgan Chase
stands first in line, according to the Rainforest Action Network, which lists the
US-based multinational investment bank as the premier financier of fossil fuels
during the period 2016-2018. The Guardian asserts that JP Morgan provided $75bn
in financial services to fracking and Arctic oil and gas exploration in that
bank has produced a report, Risky Business: the climate and the macroeconomy, (January
2020) which at first glance looks like a veritable conversion of Saint Paul on
the Road to Damascus.
The End is Nigh: British politics, power and the road to WWII
By Robert Crowcroft
Published by Oxford University Press, 2019, £25
Reviewed by Dave Murray
When you open a book entitled
The End is Nigh you have to wonder which catastrophe the author is
anticipating. When that book is an academic take on the interwar years, it says
a lot that the disaster exercising the historian’s mind is not the rise of fascism,
the coming of a globe-spanning war, the genocide of European Jewry, or the
derailing of the Russian revolution, but the 1945 Labour government and the new
social settlement ushered in after the war – which Robert Crowcroft describes
as an “utter catastrophe”.
Damaged Goods: The Rise and Fall of Sir Philip Green
By Oliver Shah
Published by Penguin, 2019, £9.99
Reviewed by Iain Dalton
With last autumn’s
release of the film Greed, a satire loosely based on the life of Philip Green,
and the man himself in the news once again around a pension scandal, this time
suspending payments into the Arcadia group pension fund, this story of how his
custodianship of British Home Stores (BHS) ended in crisis is especially relevant.