WORKERS and their unions are right to turn up the pressure on dangerous plans to reopen workplaces and public venues — the two are usually the same — in haste.
Although the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in terms of infections, deaths and new cases appears to have passed in Britain, events in parts of France and Germany indicate that moving too quickly out of lockdown, quarantine and social distancing measures can revive the spread of the virus.
We cannot even be wholly sure that the amended statistics for the impact of the virus are sufficiently accurate to permit an easing of anti-pandemic policies just yet. Britain still has inadequate safety and testing regimes, no tracing system worth the name and no anti-Covid vaccine.
Yet it is also clear that the central government at Westminster and the big business interests which fund the Tory Party have a tendency to be incompetent and even reckless when it comes to protecting the lives of workers, the elderly and the public generally.
There’s no conspiracy on the part of Britain’s ruling class to kill off workers, hospital patients or elderly care-home residents. There only needs to be a basic knowledge of how and why capitalism functions in order to understand why — especially in its most nakedly neoliberal form — it has failed so shamefully to defend our society more effectively against a deadly pandemic.
Exercise Cygnus in 2016 demonstrated the urgent need to invest in the health and social care measures required to combat a highly contagious and lethal virus. But our ruling class priorities were austerity, privatisation, cutting taxes on corporate taxes and preventing a real Brexit.
Nonetheless, there is no option now but to proceed from where we are. A top priority must be to rescue the rapidly growing number of people driven into poverty by the coronavirus and facing eviction from their homes. Emergency action is required from the British, Scottish and Welsh governments to prevent this from happening.
The anti-pandemic programme must stay largely in place for the time being. People should abide by the restrictions necessary to keep themselves and others safe. Workers and their unions must be ready to take collective action to reject unsafe working practices.
But we must also be aware of the insidious campaign being waged — mostly through the social media — by politically motivated, unscrupulous, malevolent or simply gullible people who deny the dangers and even the very existence of the current pandemic.
Their conspiracy theories are aimed at various and often contradictory targets — the Chinese Communist Party, the US or British “deep state,” the medical profession — but they all have the effect of undermining efforts to combat Covid-19.
They claim to base their arguments against social distancing, masks, vaccination and the rest on “facts” and “evidence” which the powers-that-be are desperate to suppress.
They portray themselves as courageous defenders of liberty against dastardly plots to deprive us of it — yet we never see them defending workers’ rights, or joining any genuine mass movement against the real-life austerity, privatisation, anti-trade union or pro-war policies of the ruling class in Britain, the US or elsewhere.
They dismiss as part of, presumably, a world-wide establishment cover-up the overwhelming evidence from every reputable scientific and medical source that Covid-19 is real, potentially catastrophic and cannot have originated in a laboratory.
It is no coincidence that the chief peddlers of this dangerous nonsense are often the same egotistical, well-funded and very right-wing climate change deniers and 9/11 “truthers” who oppose any attempts to challenge the power and wealth of the big corporations.
And lurking in their midst are the racists and fascists who propagate the vilest conspiracy theories of all, those aimed at Jewish people and which deny the Holocaust.
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