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From The Socialist newspaper, 18 March 2020

Going viral: socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo by NIAID/CC

Novel coronavirus Covid-19, photo by NIAID/CC   (Click to enlarge)

The Covid-19 pandemic is a world social crisis which touches every aspect of life. The entire capitalist system is being exposed, and workers and communities are organising to respond. Send us your comments, reports, anecdotes and thoughts, in not more than 200 words, to Views do not necessarily match those of those Socialist Party.

Carers need PPE

My 98-year-old mother is housebound and relies on carers. She has 14 who come to the house to help in various ways throughout the week.

The government is recommending over-70s reduce contact with other people, but for my mother this is impossible. It's like Waterloo station at her home sometimes.

Concerned about the virus being transmitted, I spoke to the care agency, and they said they recommend workers wear masks, but haven't got any... and can't get any until November! What is the government doing about this?

A reader in Hackney, east London

Neighbourhoods organise demands

I went to a meeting of my Neighbourhood Watch-type group, which is normally attended only by people complaining about potholes and so on. This time we discussed a response to coronavirus and ended up with demands including the suspension of all rent and mortgage payments and utility bills, and requisitioning the big Tesco to distribute goods to the elderly and poor.

A Labour Party member, Haringey, north London

Remote services unprepared

Stephen started with a high temperature on Saturday 7 March. At first we thought it was just a virus I'd had two weeks before. He dragged himself into work, feeling progressively worse.

I rang the 111 coronavirus helpline at day ten because there was no improvement. After a 20-minute wait, I spoke to an operator who said she would put a flag on the system for a nurse. If no nurse was available I would have to ring 111 again and select option 2.

No nurse was available, so I had to re-ring 111. The options you have to choose from to get to the correct queue are mind-boggling. The word "nurse" is not used once in the process.

I had to wait an hour and 20 minutes on hold. In this time the phone line goes silent constantly and you think you've been cut off. You also get very loud blasts of interference noise and the occasional "please hold the line, your call is important to us."

The 'nurse' (? - she didn't announce herself as one) spoke to me and then Stephen to establish his symptoms. We were then to wait for a call from a 'health technician'.

I had to contact work to say I wouldn't be in because I needed to look after my husband who has coronavirus symptoms. I was told I could work from home or put in leave. Told them I couldn't focus on work today but my sister would bring my laptop to me, so I could work from home the next day.

Sister contacted me to say they have no spare connecting cords to connect to a second screen, so I'm to work off one small screen. I've been raising for weeks at team meetings that we should have been testing working from home.

Wendy Minney, Nottingham

Tories defend insurers

Years ago I used to work for an insurance broker, and I got to see a lot of what goes on from the inside. They are incredibly cosy with politicians. It's pretty clear that the reason the government hasn't shut down pubs, restaurants and so on is because if it did then they could claim on their insurance, and the Tories' pals in the City would be hit in the pocket.

It would be all of them as well, as they spread it around. Insurer 1 takes out a policy with insurer 2 against customers making a big claim, who in turn takes out a policy with insurer 3 against insurer 1 claiming, and so on. Amusingly, there was a time before the financial crash where this was getting to be such a mess that it was going around in loops and they ended up insuring themselves without realising! Oh, the efficiency of capitalism.

Probably, soon they'll have to bite the bullet and do it anyway in spite of the howls of rage from the City... which makes me wonder if there could be another financial sector bailout coming. More people might see Johnson and his mates for what they really are - servants of big financial capital.

Joe Fathallah, Cardiff, south Wales

Shoppers slam Johnson

I went to the local shops shortly after Boris Johnson's social distancing announcements. They were very busy and, very unusually, people were talking to each other. Very friendly but quite bitter about the government.

One comment was quite typical - Johnson's only changed his tune because people were so angry. When he was saying don't do anything till Easter and the problem will go away, he meant we will die and then he won't have to worry about us.

Paul Kershaw, Enfield, north London

Patients turned away

My wife had a temperature of 37.2C. I informed nursing staff at Hillingdon. We were escorted out of the building by security. No swabs, masks or tests available. Told to go home and self-isolate with me - who has emphysema and a chest infection.

Wally Kennedy, Hillingdon, west London

Coronavirus class war

Remember in the early months of the Iraq occupation, when news filtered through that soldiers didn't have enough or the right equipment? Well, just after a few days, in the press we have NHS staff saying the same thing about the "war," as Boris called it, against the coronavirus.

It is a war, but what is the "national effort" when the rich can flee or get their tests in Harley Street; when Eton closes but schools in working-class areas stay open? The luxury food stores are jammed with online orders, but millions of workers face being thrown on the scrap heap.

We should be fighting a war - but for our interests, not theirs.

And there is a bit of an attitude going round that 'well, it only affects the elderly'. Surely an injury to one is an injury to all? We all, young and old, need to organise collectively in workplaces now and communities in the coming days, to stop an Italy here.

Matt Dobson, Glasgow, Scotland

Profits v health

Boris is quoted in the Financial Times as saying in 2007 that the real hero of the film Jaws was the mayor who tried to keep the beaches open for business while the sheriff and the shark expert were telling him to shut down the town to save lives.

It explains a lot of his early coronavirus strategy. Keep everybody at work to save profits. In the end, the shark had a field day and loads of swimmers were eaten.

Bill Mullins, Bermondsey, south London

Capitalist state intervention

The effect of the coronavirus on jobs, wages and industry could well mean the capitalist governments, against their wishes, will have no choice. They may have to implement aspects of the 'war economy' and elements of central state planning and direction, including requisitioning some private industries and converting production to deal with underfunded public health systems.

The workers' movement must act independently and campaign for workers' control and management, at all levels, as well as for a collective, 'socialised' response to the emergency - the most effective way to beat this virus, and to start fundamentally changing society.

Niall Mulholland, Forest Gate, east London

Council workers speak

Sheffield City Council workers buying the Socialist said this:

Alistair Tice, Sheffield, Yorkshire

Self-employed sick pay

Premier League footballers will still pick up their salaries while the game is suspended, but for members of my Socialist Party branch - like A who is a self-employed taxi driver, and B who is an industrial waste operative - not working means no money.

Where the hell is the Trade Union Congress's voice in demanding sick pay for every worker, irrespective of employment status, from day one of self-isolation?

A and B are not alone. Many will be forced to ignore official advice and carry on working. This is just one more reality of what the neoliberal market means for the working class.

Robin Clapp, Bristol

Donate to the Socialist Party

Coronavirus crisis - Finance appeal

The coronavirus crisis has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class that keeps society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.

The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to cope with the crisis.

The government has now ripped up its 'austerity' mantra and turned to policies that not long ago were denounced as socialist. But after the corona crisis, it will try to make the working class pay for it, by trying to claw back what has been given.

  • The Socialist Party's material is more vital than ever, so we can continue to report from workers who are fighting for better health and safety measures, against layoffs, for adequate staffing levels, etc.
  • Our 'fighting coronavirus workers' charter', outlines a programme to combat the virus and protect workers' living conditions.
  • When the health crisis subsides, we must be ready for the stormy events ahead and the need to arm workers' movements with a socialist programme - one which puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
Inevitably, during the crisis we have not been able to sell the Socialist and raise funds in the ways we normally would.
We therefore urgently appeal to all our viewers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal.

Please donate here.

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In The Socialist 18 March 2020:

Workplace news and analysis

Stop Press: postal workers deliver massive strike vote and offer to become additional 'emergency service'

East London bin workers strike to get back unpaid holiday pay

Determined St Mungo's homelessness workers strike for three days

International socialist news and analysis

French local elections: CWI candidate elected

New pamphlet: constituent assemblies and the revolutionary programme

Socialist history

South Africa: 60 years marking the Sharpeville Massacre


Coronavirus: workers must not pay the price!

Capitalist crisis and corona: Johnson's budget for the bosses

Coronavirus - a workers charter 2020

Coronavirus: socialist planning, not capitalist chaos!

Coronavirus housing emergency - suspend rent and mortgage payments, seize empty homes

PCS union demands better deal for benefits claimants

Councils must break austerity rules

Action needed to protect shop workers and access to essential goods

Coronavirus hospital worker: amazing response from staff - but worst still to come

'Health not profit' strike wave sweeps Italy

United States: private healthcare exposed as Trump throws money at markets

Workers at Lewisham coronavirus hospital walk out after not being paid

Coronavirus - waste processing employers putting us at risk

Bexley bin workers strike over lack of hand sanitiser

Going viral: socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis

Under the microscope: socialist coronavirus news in brief

Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Help us fund the Socialist

Stop gentrification of Lea Bridge

Tory student plot defeated at Cardiff uni

Nottingham uni occupation ends

Socialist Students speaking tour

Selling the Socialist

Readers' opinion

TV: Noughts and Crosses


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