The Young Communist League of Britain has issued the following statement on the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis unfolding and the criminal failure of Boris Johnson’s Tory government to protect working people in Britain.
The rapid spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) from Wuhan in China to all corners of the planet has now been classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organisation (“WHO”). As well as directly affecting the hundreds of thousands who have contracted the virus, it has led to worry and fear for billions of working people everywhere.
A number of lessons can be drawn from this unfolding crisis. Britain and the countries of the European Union have proven themselves unable and unwilling to take the necessary measures to protect working people from the spread of the virus, which has now taken hold in Europe. This failure to take control measures is the result of a desire not to affect economic activity or the rate of profit, literally gambling with the lives of millions. We are now living with the consequences and the likelihood of a generalised outbreak in Britain.
By contrast, the world owes the Chinese people a great debt for the bold and determined efforts they have undertaken to contain and defeat the virus. Measures which were labelled as “authoritarian” or “totalitarian” up to only a few weeks by Britain’s media have been praised by the WHO and are now widely being called for here.
The response of Boris Johnson and his Cabinet has been dangerously negligent. The right wing buffoons which make up this government have lined up to make dangerous, contradictory and insensitive statements on the virus and the government’s lack of response. Again, their motivation is clear. The financial markets in Britain, Europe and the USA are suffering the biggest losses since the 2008 Financial Crisis. The Tories only care about protecting profits in Britain by maintaining ‘normality’ for as long as possible. This was made clear in Wednesday’s Budget which focussed only on cash to shore up big business and not efforts to mobilise the country to combat the crisis. A decade of austerity has left our NHS and emergency services hanging by thread.
Britain’s young communists are clear on our demands to respond to this crisis:
- Close all nurseries, schools, colleges and universities now, to be reviewed on an ongoing basis.
- Additional support and resources should be put in place for students during this period with exams and assignment deadlines postponed or extended where appropriate.
- Emergency legislation for guaranteed day 1 sick pay for all workers, including those in the gig economy, and self-employed individuals.
- Emergency legislation for a right for workers to self-isolate and take necessary precautions and protection from victimisation for doing so.
- An additional £15 billion in NHS funding to combat the ongoing outbreak.
- A £15 billion COVID-19 response fund accessible to the emergency services, local authorities and the devolved administrations.
- Increased cooperation with China on prevention and containment measures and efforts to develop a vaccine.
- Increased international and medical aid to third world countries affected by the virus.
We are yet again confronted with another form of crisis which capitalism is unable and unwilling to resolve. The system is built on rotten foundations, its fragility and inefficiency and lack of concern for human life have been put on display by this outbreak. But even before this virus, the global financial system was lurching towards another economic crisis.
This crisis, the next in the cycle, was always coming but the ruling class will attempt to pass it off as a result of the virus in order to protect the system. They will allow working people to suffer. They will put our lives at risk to maintain profits. Following the crisis, they will work to shift the burden on to us through austerity, just as they did in 2008. But only if they are allowed to do so.
Working people can’t stand for this criminal response. We have to organise and demand a people’s effort to defeat and contain the virus and proper protection and support for workers who are affected.
Executive Committee, Young Communist League
13 March 2020, London, Britain.