Hannah Sell, Socialist Party general secretary
The coronavirus crisis has led to the upheaval of every aspect of society. After it, nothing will remain the same.
It has laid bare the class character of society in numerous ways. It is making clear to many that it is the working class – including NHS, transport, retail, and refuse workers – who are essential to keeping society running, not the CEOs of major corporations.
The results of austerity have been graphically demonstrated as public services strain to try and cope with the crisis. The number of hospital beds, for example, has more than halved over recent decades.
And as the economy plunges downwards, by a predicted unprecedented 15% in one quarter, it is primarily the working class that is paying the price, with almost half a million being forced to claim Universal Credit in one week alone.
Desperate to prevent a mass revolt against the developing economic catastrophe the Tory government, along with capitalist governments worldwide, has been forced to intervene into the economy on a huge scale. It has ripped up its ‘austerity is necessary’ mantra, carrying out policies that just weeks ago were denounced as socialist.
The Tories, of course, do not carry out such policies in the interests of the working-class majority, but in order to prop up capitalism – a system driven by making profits for a few, not meeting the needs of all.
Without doubt, in the aftermath of the corona crisis, the Tories and the capitalist class will try to make the working class pay for it, setting out to claw back what has been given.
After a decade of being made to pay for capitalism’s last crisis, and in the midst of an ongoing economic crisis that looks set to be worse than the one before, the working class will ferociously resist such an assault.
The ideas of socialism began to be repopularised over the last decade. In the period after corona there will be opportunities to win mass support for a fundamental socialist transformation of society.
The Socialist Party’s coronavirus Workers’ Charter in a window in Leeds, photo Iain Dalton (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)
The Socialist has consistently put forward the need for such a transformation: arguing for the nationalisation of the commanding heights of the economy under democratic workers’ control and management in order to begin to develop a rational socialist plan of production – as the only means to harness all the science and technique created by capitalism to meet the needs of all and protect the planet.
Throughout our history, first as the Militant newspaper and since as the Socialist, our paper – and our party, the Socialist Party – has linked the struggle for socialism to the day to day battles of the working class to defend and improve its living conditions.
We have played an important role in countless struggles, including leading the mighty 18 million-strong movement against the poll tax thirty years ago which successfully defeated the tax and forced the ‘Iron Lady’ Maggie Thatcher out of office. The class battles on the agenda in the coming years, however, are set to dwarf all that we’ve experienced before, and will provide greater opportunities to put the case for socialism.
We therefore urgently appeal to all of our readers to donate to our special coronavirus appeal in order to make sure we come out of the lockdown ready for the stormy events ahead. Inevitably, the lockdown is preventing many of our normal means of selling the Socialist and raising funds.
Please give all you can to help compensate for those difficulties and to enable us to continue producing the Socialist throughout the lockdown.
This is vital not only for what is going to come after the lockdown, but also for the battles taking place during it. Tory ministers may be breaking the habits of a lifetime and praising workers, but – despite their claims to the contrary – they are not acting in the ‘national’ interest. There is not one single national interest but different class interests. Ultimately the Tories are acting for the capitalist class.
It is vital that the working class has an independent voice to defend its own class interests, just as much in times of crisis as at other times. Unfortunately, the majority of the leaders of the trade union and labour movement have made concessions to the pressure of the capitalist class to unite behind the government.
In contrast, on the ground a number of unions have reported increased membership, as workers look for a means to defend themselves during the crisis. They can find that in the Socialist by reading our ‘fighting coronavirus workers’ charter’, which sums up a programme to effectively combat the virus and protect workers’ living conditions.
A workers’ paper
You can also read countless reports of trade unionists – Socialist Party members and others – that are in the frontline in their workplace, leading fights to prevent layoffs, to increase pay or staffing levels, or for better health and safety measures. And, of course, you can read about the battles within the trade union movement to demand that the union leaders nationally take the same fighting approach.
The corona crisis is not only a health crisis; it has triggered a profound crisis of the capitalist system. It has also demonstrated the central role of the working class in running society.
Armed with a socialist programme they are also the force capable of ending this sick capitalist system and building a new democratic socialist society that puts the health and needs of humanity before the profits of a few.
The Socialist has a vital role to play – please donate to help us do so.
Unite Lancashire Community NW/11500 branch has donated £100. Branch secretary and treasurer Jim Leigh said: “We hope this will go a little way in helping the Socialist newspaper navigate through this crisis.”