As the infection rate remains high, the government continues to put the interests of its own class above the interests of the majority, argues Caitlin Southern.
The past few months have revealed the best and worst of humanity as we have seen working class people band together to protect the vulnerable in the face of deliberately confusing government messages while the rich have scrambled to save themselves. Be it billionaires demanding taxpayer bailouts, so that they could avoid paying the wages of their workers, or Tory toffs hypocritically insisting that children being crammed into overcrowded and under-resourced classrooms was better than them being kept at home, the rich have once again demonstrated their belief that we are disposable.
They have used the image of the Prime Minister being bumbling but well-meaning – the ‘It’s only Boris’ attitude – to disguise the shocking lack of humanity in many members of the government. The willingness to undermine the authority of the office in order to avoid public scrutiny of backroom deals is staggering and demonstrates that the Tories are using their unassailable parliamentary majority to sweep society back to the worst of Victorian values.
The debate between aiming for a ‘zero Covid’ strategy and accepting that this is just something we live with now is still rumbling on, even though it should have been settled decisively months ago. That there was ever any question as to the long term viability of taking whatever steps necessary to eradicate the virus is a disgusting indictment of the government that we have, and that we are likely to have for at least four more years.
The decision by the government to grant themselves emergency powers for two years, in the light of the PM’s since-disputed statement that we could have the virus beaten in three months, shows that they were far from bumbling. They did however realise early on that the pandemic could be exploited for their gain and our loss. The cynical use of the pandemic to completely strip away civil liberties that have been under threat for years completes the picture of a ruling class that both fears and despises the workers.
It is no coincidence that the rates of infection and death have been particularly high in countries with right wing governments, as they have consistently sought to avoid or undermine lockdown measures. The demand to keep the economy going at whatever cost has been a running thread through the pandemic response, with the current push to get workers back into city centre workplaces in order to protect property values being just the latest in a series of tone deaf announcements. The concurrent demand to get children back to school in order to allow their parents to return to work is similarly cruel and short sighted as it will only force the already high infection rate to climb still higher.
All of these factors beg the question of who is benefitting from the crisis. Society as a whole is suffering but the landlords, pharmaceutical companies and Tory donors are doing well. The announcement that manufacturers of potential vaccines would not be liable should rushed treatments fail to work or cause more harm should have been met with widespread outrage, yet seems to have been largely ignored as people cling desperately to the hope that this will soon be over.
By forcing us to fight on multiple fronts, including challenging the PPE fiasco, the appalling attempt to divide key workers over pay, and the reopening of schools and non-essential businesses, the government has been quite successful at grinding down opposition to its awful policies as a whole. If we are to effectively fight back and develop an effective response to the pandemic and the wanton cruelty of the dogmatic adherence to austerity, we must be as organised and united as the ruling class.
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