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Editorial: Failures to tackle Covid-19 are failures of capitalism

THE untimely crash on take-off of Britain’s coronavirus postcode tracker stands as a symbol that everything that might go wrong in our “failing state” will go wrong.

The national Test and Trace facility is reaching less than six out of 10 contacts. 

The sensible injunction — for people who have been in contact with infection to isolate — is hobbled by the fact that in the absence of adequate financial support, many workers, especially the low-paid, cannot afford unpaid time off work.

The chaotic conduct of the coronavirus emergency by ministers and their minions is best illustrated by the bizarre story that some bloke who lived near the Minister of Health blagged a government Covid-19 test kit contract despite having no track record in this or any related field of commercial entrepreneurship or health management.

Maybe this is the “hidden hand” of the market that Tory ideologues and capitalist fundamentalists claim is the underlying logic of their “perfect” system. 

Privatisation inevitably entails an unending succession of corruption and collapse. 

The drive for profit results in safety margins and production processes trimmed to enhance shareholder value, with the consequence that every structure infected with the privatisation virus inevitably lacks the capacity or resilience to deal with unanticipated crises.

There is a serious debate to be had about the appropriate measures needed to reduce the kind of human interactions that allow the virus to spread. 

That this should be led by epidemiologists and medical experts informed by expert opinion on how human beings modify their behaviour and what measures are necessary to produce an effective response seems bleeding obvious.

But the lessons we can draw from the experience of other countries is that this needs to be centrally organised with the state directing efforts. 

Where the most marked successes are evident is in countries where national leaderships acted decisively. 

There are examples in capitalist states that are worthy of study. Several south and east Asian states have been able to mobilise the human and material resources with much greater efficiency than Britain.

The three exemplary socialists states, China, Cuba and Vietnam, show that, irrespective of size or level of economic development, a state that serves its people before profit is best suited to tackle crises of this magnitude.

Where this government has failed — is failing — is in leadership. At one level this can be attributed to the flawed characters at the centre of government — forget the baleful influence of sundry special advisers now thrown on the corporate world for employment, this is a failure forced from the top. 

But the failure is, in essence, a failure of the system and of ideas.

The Office of Rail and Road, the regulatory body responsible for overseeing Network Rail and the train operators, published statistics which prompted rail unions to say that the Covid-19 crisis has left the era of rail privatisation “null and void.”

It is nice to have this insight — one that millions of voters, including a majority of Tory voters, reached independently — made official. 

Maybe an incoming Labour government (thoughts and prayers all round) might establish a Department of the Bleeding Obvious tasked to investigate whole era of privatisation. 

Maybe a federal socialist British republic might set up a Foundation for the Study of the Dictatorship of the Bourgeoisie to give this criminal band of privatisers and opportunity to confess, seek forgiveness and become reconciled to a regime that puts people before profit.

In the meantime the Labour opposition has a perfect opportunity to use a forensic examination of the government’s failures in a case for fundamental change.

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