Eddie Ford refers in his article to the police being “heavy-handed” (‘Never let a good crisis go to waste’, April 9). A lot of police do love to throw their weight around, but, to be fair, a recent article in The Guardian - and no doubt others - too pointed out that the “blue lagoon” in Derbyshire is actually a toxic waste dump with a pH value approaching that of bleach. The local council also dyes it from time to time to dissuade the youngsters from diving in.
But the overall thrust of the piece in undoubtedly true: the ruling class loves a crisis, in which they can ramp up repression and wind down any concessions they have been forced to make in the past; and to do that they need “heavy-handed” police. They can now ask anybody where they live, where they’re going and why, what they’re doing - a dream come true for any police force.
Paul Demarty in the same issue points out that the price will be paid by “the working class - and the lower layers of the petty bourgeoisie” - and the Tory government will want to make sure that this is the case (‘Who will pay the price?’ April 9). The new Labour leadership seems keen to share ‘responsibility’ for getting through the crisis - the Tories may even let them in, in time to share the blame.
It will be difficult, however, to hide who has been hit hardest already. The numbers of dead will tell some stories: the most vulnerable will have paid already when this is over. So, we will have dead front-line NHS staff, as well as staff in the care homes. Then there are the inmates of those care homes and of immigrant incarceration centres and prisons - all of whom are in an even worse situation than the rest of us.
Along with pandemic deaths, we have the millions in this country and more across the world who have been pushed not just into penury, but into starvation, as what little they had is gone. We have yet to see how the pandemic will sweep through India, Africa and South America, for instance, but death numbers will shriek out the injustices of all regimes.
It’s not so easy to organise, meet, protest and rally, when everyone has to stay at home, but there will be rage, hence the need for “heavy-handed” police - and courts - together with the military and so on. With absolutely massive numbers of people left to rot and die, without jobs, income, healthcare - even food - there will be eruptions of massive numbers in turn.
Where there is no government support nearly everywhere, there may be charity and community solidarity on a large scale, but for many countries, and within many countries, that will be woefully inadequate and there will be revolt - and repression.
There may well be major concessions, or apparent concessions, that many of the richer governments are trying, which may reduce opposition, or at least divide it, but the sheer scale of the multiple forms of deprivation mean that in some cases millions will face choices to either self-isolate and starve or fight and face death anyway. It’s not as if people have not done the latter throughout class society.
Who knows, without a strong communist leadership, where this rage will be directed, but the urgency of building a communist leadership gets ever higher.
The ‘rising tide’ schematic has always struck me as a deeply flawed analogy (‘Who will pay the price?’ April 9). According to the laws of physics, liquid will always find its own level. Thus all boats will be equally lifted by a rising tide. But in the neoliberal thesis some boats (the biggest ones!) are lifted far higher than others ...
Paul Demarty concludes his article with comments about class division. This gives the clue to how the ‘rising tide’ trick works. The ruling class makes its own laws and twists those of the sciences to support its own hegemonic narrative.
Why, why, why?
Rugby Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition has written to local Tory MP Mark Pawsey following concerns it has picked up from residents about certain aspects of the government’s handling of the Coronavirus crisis. We feel that now, with over 10,000 recorded hospital deaths from Covid-19 in Britain and over 80,000 confirmed cases, we should take stock and look critically at government strategy.
We did not want to make handling of Covid-19 into a party political issue at a time of national crisis. However, with the number of cases - and sadly deaths - rising more rapidly than in most other countries, questions need to be asked. Jeremy Farar, a government senior scientific advisor, warned at the weekend that the UK could be the worst affected country in Europe.
As a consequence, we have asked Mark Pawsey MP the following questions:
- Why did we wait seven weeks to buy ventilators? Why did we refuse the European Union ventilator purchase scheme?
- Why did we fail to do sufficient test and trace and isolate, as per the advice of the World Health Organisation?
- Recently, we heard from a local nurse that there had been no hand sanitiser on her ward despite there being three patients with coronavirus on it. What would you say to her?
- Why have we failed to get enough personal protective equipment for NHS, social care and other key workers?
- Why are we failing to reach promised mass testing numbers, and why are we so far behind many other countries with the amount of testing?
- Why did we lock down three weeks after others, after first following a disastrous ‘herd immunity’ policy of mitigation, not suppression?
- Is there any truth in the rumours that the government is considering a return to mitigation if numbers of cases start to level off?
- Would you now concede that the NHS has been woefully underfunded for many years - a situation which has not helped on the ground during this pandemic?
We need answers to these important questions. Why have the countries with the lowest percentage rates of catching the virus, the lowest number in critical care and the lowest number of deaths - countries that include Germany, Portugal, South Korea and the Czech Republic - been so much better prepared. with so much more testing and PPE for all key workers?
We will be demanding that there be an independent enquiry in the UK after all this is over. Let’s hope there is now more urgency in our government’s response. All our key workers, and the rest of us, deserve nothing less.
Recently an article appeared in mainstream media on the subject of China’s international ‘investment’ policy and associated difficulties of ‘indebtedness’ by its recipients - all as currently being brought into stark relief by financial/economic aspects of Covid-19. Things were particularly sharpened by commentary that came from Ghana’s finance minister, Ken Ofori-Atta, who told the Washington-based Center for Global Development: “My feeling is that China has to come on stronger … African debt to China is $145 billion or so, over $8 billion of payments is required this year … So that needs to be looked at.”
Surely an in-depth article on this topic from the Weekly Worker is long overdue? One that not only includes that particular role and those subtly evolved techniques of so-called ‘communist China’, but also focuses upon the real purposes of loans and - ‘charitable’ or otherwise - NGO-style ‘support’ to ‘undeveloped’ countries. In other words, an article to explain in Marxist terms how ruthless/brutal global trade structures are all part and parcel of securing the super-efficient extraction of local raw materials and natural resources.
Of course, that is the self-same parasitical process and grand-scale hypocritical system which provides affluent and comfortable lifestyles within our so-called civilised areas of the globe, providing local elites - either installed or imposed by those same foreign forces - with their wealth.
As part of a parallel cycle that is both abusive and corrosive, on that same morning last week there appeared an article about the dire circumstances of Julian Assange. Most specifically, how a woman who had formed an extremely intimate relationship with him during his sanctuary in the Ecuadorean embassy now fears for his life - especially given Assange’s near solitary confinement in Belmarsh prison, where a number of other inmates have contracted Covid-19.
How do these two seemingly entirely separate matters in fact fall within the same arena? Where’s any connection between, on the one side, an internationally hunted-down refugee from the USA’s so-called Justice Department with, on the other, Chinese investment in African and similarly poor countries (not forgetting similar activity from many other dominant state powers and their continents-straddling corporations)?
Well, the requirements of all such capitalist/imperialist elites form an unbroken chain - one which secures all working class people within a mental and physical exploitation, alongside an oppression of their cultural and ethical rights. Despite the significant differences that exist, all such matters of vicious punishment and cruel manipulation must remain in the forefront for all readers of the Weekly Worker.
In these Covid-19 lockdown times your readers need to look no further than the pages of the latest Spartacist for ready-made entertainment (see www.icl-fi.org/english/esp/66/plenum.html).
Not since the days of the wilder fringes of Maoism have we witnessed such a spectacular example of self-criticism and self-destruction of individuals who set out to change the world and ended up in a room in Germany accusing themselves and their leaderships of being liars, chauvinists, racists and anti-Semites. Oh, and of ‘piggish’ behaviour to boot.
We learn that, while not being a state and having only a ‘pseudo-parliament’ and no army, the European Union has managed to create semi-colonies out of its weaker members. Like the best of us, I believe that the EU needs to be swept away by the working class, but it’s hard to accept that austerity in places like Ireland and Greece wasn’t imposed by national governments keen to improve their ‘competitiveness’ (especially in the case of Ireland). Instead, from the Spartacist perspective, the main enemy is not at home, but in Brussels.
I don’t want to ruin it for everyone (spoiler alert!), but here’s a small example of the consequences of their position. It turns out that Ireland (presumably the Republic) has to struggle for its sovereignty and self-determination against rule from Brussels. However, their neighbours in the north of Ireland don’t seem to have to struggle against the injustice of British rule because no mention is made of them.
Don’t read it all at once - it’s definitely a document to be savoured in small doses over a nice whiskey (or whatever you’re having yourself).
John Smithee says that, because of coronavirus, “Socialist Appeal, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, together with the Weekly Worker, have already stopped producing hard copies” (Letters, April 9). Can I reassure John and your readers that, despite the unusual difficulties encountered in producing and printing a paper, we have produced the latest hard copy of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! (No275, April-May 2020) and have every intention of doing so for June and July and on into the foreseeable future.
Readers wanting a hard copy of the paper should contact their local RCG branch (details on our website) and we will attempt to get one to them. Alternatively the PDF version of our paper can be purchased through our website.
FRFI editorial board
Regarding Elijah Traven’s letter published last week (April 9), atomisation is a theoretical concept for sure, and so, yes, it originated from academia - or “louts in universities”, as he puts it.
Atomisation is a derivation of alienation and also from the discovery of atoms (also made by “louts in universities” - for example, that most famous of them, Albert Einstein). Alienation, of course, was formulated in the social context by that well known idle lout, Karl Marx, who could never be bothered or minded to get a proper job, but that’s the middle class for you!
In post-war capitalist society some aspects of social democracy did emerge in the form of the welfare state, and this to some extent mitigated against the alienating aspects of capitalism. But the emergence of the consumerist society caused an explosion in atomisation to a different qualitative degree than Marx had imagined. The psychologist, Oliver James, demonstrates a powerful link between Thatcherism and mental health issues, for example.
I think atomisation is a useful concept and describes a real social situation, even if it was developed by louts. It’s certainly a concept that historical materialists can hardly ignore!
Paradoxically - and in total opposition to the somewhat positivist notions of Rex Dunn - I think the lockdown is one mechanism for reducing atomisation and thus alienation.
Which am I?
A couple of things. Firstly, as I’ve resigned from the Labour Party because of the leadership election result, how do I know if I’m flotsam or jetsam?
Secondly, do the rest of the CPGB agree with the basic arguments put forward in Jack Conrad’s assessment (‘Not the gutter, but the stars’, April 9’ - I won’t flatter him with the description, ‘analysis’)?