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From The Socialist newspaper, 1 April 2020

Editorial of the Socialist issue 1080

Labour must resist 'Covid coalition' - Workers need their own voice and party

Keir Starmer is seen as a safe pair of hands by the ruling class compared to ‘unreliable’ Corbyn photo Jeremy Corbyn photostream/CC

Keir Starmer is seen as a safe pair of hands by the ruling class compared to ‘unreliable’ Corbyn photo Jeremy Corbyn photostream/CC   (Click to enlarge)

In the early stages of a war or national emergency, there is often a mood to pull together in the 'national' interest, and the idea that 'party politics' should be put to one side. An Opinium poll in the Observer showed trust in Boris Johnson has gone up. This is echoed in increased support for previously unpopular leaders elsewhere, such as Macron in France.

Leading Labour figures like John McDonnell have said this is not the time for "political point-scoring", and the leaders of the TUC have pledged to work with the government "in the national interest" (see 'Union independence must be maintained at socialistparty.org.uk).

Now senior Tories are floating the idea of a "Covid coalition" - some form of a national unity government.

However, despite this mood, there is no single national interest, but different class interests, which this coronavirus crisis is laying bare.

The instinct to stand in solidarity together is a strong one - not a 'British' value but a class one. The millions who clapped for the NHS are an illustration of that, along with the more than 700,000 people who came forward as volunteers.

Class solidarity is illustrated in the countless battles taking place in workplaces to try to win protective equipment, to fight against pay cuts and job losses, to close unnecessarily open workplaces. That stands in stark contrast to the instinct of the rich tax-avoiding bosses, demanding bailouts and refusing to pay wages.

The virus itself is not a respecter of class, but the experience of living through the crisis, and the chance of getting the necessary care, very much displays the class divide - 'staying at home' in a tiny over-crowded flat; struggling on 20% less pay or inadequate benefits. One week into the lockdown and already 1.5 million adults say they cannot get enough food. We have heard the lie "we are all in this together" before, and this crisis is exposing the inability of rotten capitalism to protect lives.

The greatest fear of the capitalists is how they get out the other side of this crisis. The economy is in an unprecedented nose-dive - described by economic commentator Nuriel Roubini as "the fastest, deepest economic shock in history". Class polarisation will only deepen.

The challenge for the representatives of the capitalist class, is how do they roll back the state interventions and make the working class pay.

A form of national unity government, as far as the Tories and big business are concerned, would be a shield, to share the blame for the punishment they aim to mete out on the working class.

They would hope bringing Labour leaders into the tent would provide a cover that would make anti-working class policies more palatable.

It is an illustration of how the boss class views Keir Starmer as a safe pair of hands for capitalist interests, that the Tory MP raising this idea, George Freeman, said: "When Labour have a sensible new leader, Keir Starmer [if elected] should be invited to a Covid cabinet, Cobra and joint No 10 briefings."

The sigh of relief that the unreliable Corbyn has gone is almost audible. In fact, none of the candidates for Labour leader opposed the idea of a unity government.

The current dominant mood of standing together can mean that, temporarily, class collaboration in some form of national government could be accepted.

But ten years of austerity and the reality exposed by this crisis will make it much harder to get away with forcing the working class to pay.

The tolerance for a Labour Party that has not stood up and expressed workers' anger, and that is prepared to work hand in hand with the Tories to defend the interests of the capitalists, could be short-lived.

A national unity government runs a great risk for the ruling class: that workers' anger wouldn't be contained by the Labour Party under its new leader, but could find expression in struggle and in efforts to forge a new working-class party, with a socialist programme. It is that risk that could stay their hand.

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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.
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In The Socialist 1 April 2020:


Coronavirus news

NHS workers speak out: austerity has left us unprepared

Schools: union oversight needed to end chaos in provision under coronavirus

Councils must use resources now for emergency response

NHS supply chain worker: privatisation has cut equipment quantity and quality

Self-isolation class divide: decent homes for all!

Fully fund hospices to care for vulnerable children

Scandalous conditions in food distribution centre

Coronavirus news in brief


World War Two

All in this together? The 'Blitz spirit' myth


What we think

PPE, tests, full pay - for all now

Labour must resist 'Covid coalition': Workers need their own voice and party

Emergency legislation: Trade unions must be on guard against attacks on workers' interests


Food supply and the coronavirus crisis

Capitalism means empty shelves, food insecurity, and soaring profits - the case for a socialist alternative


Workplace news

Key workers should make bold demands

Essential workers deserve more

Working in Mike Ashley's empire: After lockdown we won't forget how we've been treated

Hull construction workers force bosses to shut down site over health and safety fears

Bosses concede to walkouts in Northern Ireland

Bus drivers halt sackings - now restore our pay

Postal workers walk out over health, safety and junk mail

Working from home during the pandemic

Leicester: Nylacast worker exposes truth

Refuse collection workers strike


Benefits

Fight for safety, staffing and services - Covid chaos for benefits claimants

More than ever, we need accountable union leaders


Campaigns

Help us continue to fight for workers and socialism

Building the Socialist Party


Readers' opinion

Going viral - Socialist letters and comments on the coronavirus crisis


 

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