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We must create a state that serves people, not capital

The severity of the crises we face coming out of Covid-19 only deepens the need for a radical socialist programme, writes RICHARD BURGON MP

SOME 65,000 excess deaths in Britain during coronavirus means we have one of the worst deaths rates in the world.

Tens of thousands of these deaths were completely avoidable, according to top scientists.

They are the result of government failure after government failure — on delaying lockdown, PPE, care homes, testing, tracking and tracing, mixed messaging and premature easing of lockdown measures.

Those failings flow from Britain, along with Brazil and the US, having one of the most free-market neoliberal systems in the world, leaving our society and services unprepared.

As socialists, we need to replace that system, not just tinker with it.

Hot on the heels of the public health crisis is a coming jobs crisis.

The public health crisis is set to develop into one of the deepest ever recessions. 

Experts are warning that Britain’s unemployment rate could hit 15 per cent if there is a second wave of coronavirus.

This would mean approaching five million workers becoming unemployed — and then, of course, on top of that is underemployment.

We cannot fight the economic crisis until we tackle the public health crisis. We need to keep up the calls for public health to be put first.

That’s why it has been so important to show solidarity with the teaching unions — and to keep doing so.

But we also need a national plan for growth and jobs. Record state spending should not be about shoring up a broken economic model that has failed people for the last decade and more.

It should be about transforming our economy and dealing with the numerous crises we face — in wages, in public services and in relation to climate change.

Fundamentally, we need to create a state that serves the people, not a state that serves capital.

Of course the Tories don’t want permanent state interventions and public ownership. But that’s what we as a movement need to fight for.

We must campaign for a Green New Deal because we can’t go into the climate crisis as badly prepared as we were for the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic.

We must argue for state investment in modern infrastructure, in high-wage tech and industrial industries to move our economy away from the model of low pay and insecure employment.

We need to be making the case for state investment to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in our public services, a record level of council housebuilding and a national care service. Proper sick pay, rent cancellations and much more are necessary in the immediate term.

At the same time, we need to be supporting campaigns to create a society of equals. The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the deep structural inequalities that scar our society.

The Black Lives Matter movement has rightly pushed structural racism to the top of the agenda.

Now’s the time for real change. The dismantling of all systematic inequality must be at the heart of how we “rebuild better.”

We must stand shoulder to shoulder with women, disabled people, BAME communities and LGBT+ people who, as the economic recession bites, will face ever more reactionary attempts at scapegoating and “divide and rule.”

Just as the health crisis has exposed inequalities within our society, so it has exposed inequalities between societies.

Poorer nations are facing ever greater debts which will mean cutting health services. Any global recession will also see tensions rise.

We have already seen that Donald Trump is growing more belligerent.

His attacks on the World Health Organisation are signs of a more unilateral and a “beggar-thy-neighbour” policy and the Trump administration’s increasingly overtly hostile approach to China has concerning global implications.

His determination to help push through his so-called Deal of the Century means that ever greater solidarity will be needed with Palestine against the attempt to annex the West Bank.

Considering the position domestically and internationally in the context of the public health crisis and the coming economic crisis, it’s clear that the radical ideas in Labour’s last manifesto will be even more important. In fact, these crises necessitate even more radical policy solutions.

Some will deepen their attacks on the left, saying it’s because of socialist policies that we lost the general election. It wasn’t. We lost because it became a Brexit election.

There is only one way of responding to the health, economic and climate crises — and that’s with socialism.

Richard Burgon is Labour MP for Leeds East.

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