Poverty and inequality

The inequalities are glaring

Katrina Faccenda is a Labour Party activist in Edinburgh and Labour candidate for the Scottish parliamentary seat of Edinburgh Northern and Leith. She talked with Sacha Ismail. This crisis has starkly highlighted all sorts of inequalities and made them glaring. Vulnerable people are now much more vulnerable – people in poverty, women, BAME communities. It’s an indicator not so much of how awful the pandemic is, as how dysfunctional our society was even before. At the same time, we’ve seen the power trade unions can have when they actually put their mind to it, winning victories and concessions...

The USA in the pandemic

As the US currently leads the world with nearly one million cases, the death rate is particularly high in New York and New Jersey, and cities like Seattle, where the population is more concentrated and the culture is more cosmopolitan. The virus has come to rural states, like mine in Vermont, later. The majority of deaths in Vermont have come in nursing homes. The staff in those homes, in this state anyway, are entirely non-union and very low-paid. There are also a lot of deaths in the prisons, and in the meatpacking plants, where the workers are primarily low-income and undocumented. 26...

Inequality kills

This virus threatens the worse-off much more than the rich. Neither the scientists nor we know exactly how to combat the virus in general terms, but we do know what can and must be done to shield the worse-off. In some countries, the first cases of Covid-19 were among better-off people who’d travelled as tourists to early-affected countries. But everywhere, as the pandemic proceeds, the worst-off are hit hardest. The virus hits elderly people, or those with other health problems, much more than the young and otherwise healthy, and men somewhat more than women. But rich elderly men are doing ok...

Work or full pay!

As of 1 April, 950,000 new people had applied for Universal Credit in just two weeks. Usually new applications run at about 100,000 a week. Hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people have lost their jobs because they were on casual contracts, and because they worked for businesses which have laid them off or simply shut down. Many small employers have laid off workers, but also big ones, like universities. Many who are self-employed — really self-employed, or formally self-employed while really being wage-workers — are not able to use the government’s scheme for aid to the self-employed, or...

Hunger in Italy

According to the mainstream Italian daily Corriere della Sera (30 March): “There is an increasing risk that a social powder keg will be created in the South [of Italy]. “In Campania, as in Sicily, episodes of night thefts or small assaults in supermarkets are multiplying...” Police have now been stationed outside supermarkets in some areas. In Naples, an exhibition hall has been converted to a food aid centre. On 31 March the city of Palermo set up an online facility to register for food aid, and it was quickly flooded. In Italy’s South, many people have depended on insecure jobs, petty trade,...

Scrap all energy bills in the lockdown!

All energy bills for residential customers should be scrapped for the period of the lock down. This is a demand that should be made of the government now. Heat, light and energy for homes should be a basic right not a privilege. Yet millions of the poorest and most vulnerable people do not have secure supply. Energy supply companies are not allowed to cut off vulnerable customers, the elderly or those with children. But in many cases they don't have to. If a household has a top up pre-payment meter, and doesn't have the money, they self disconnect anyway by running out of credit. Customers who...

The $360 trillion

Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash I was worried, like all the other people in the world, about the lack of treatment for this virus epidemic, so I asked the WHO [World Health Organisation] this question: “Do you have any global statistics on the lack of treatment, nurses, doctors, hospitals and medicine around the world, and how much funding is needed to overcome this epidemic?” WHO replied: “WHO has deployed technical support teams since the beginning of March to Iran and Italy to help local and national health authorities design mitigation policies and strategies, prepare and equip...

Lessons from past pandemics

The nearest historical precedent to the Covid-19 pandemic is the “Spanish flu” which swept the world between March 1918 and March 1920, in three successive and distinct waves. On the best estimates, made decades later because no one counted well at the time, that strain of flu infected about one-third of the world’s whole population and killed between 50 and 100 million, possibly more than World War 1 and World War 2 combined. The deaths peaked sharply in the second wave, between mid-September and mid-December 1918. Most strains of flu disproportionately kill the elderly and the very young....

Pause Brexit now!

From Labour for a Socialist Europe Whatever our differing views on Brexit, the whole Labour Party and labour movement should call and campaign for the Brexit transition period due to end on 31 December to be extended significantly – at least an extra year, maybe the full two years permitted under existing rules. Even before the Covid-19 crisis, the possibility of the UK striking a deal with the EU in time looked tenuous. The Tory government has been threatening to walk away and prepare for a No Deal Brexit if the essentials of a deal are not in place by June! Now the next round of UK-EU talks...

Strength and audacity we have never before known

“…the Ford women have definitely shaken the women of the country.” (Rose Boland, one of the leading women in the Equal Pay Strike at Ford Dagenham,1968) “We have achieved more in six weeks than the politicians and trade unions have in years.” (Mary Denness, one of ‘Headscarf Revolutionaries’ who changed health and safety laws for fishermen working on the trawler ships, Hull, 1968 ) “It felt like the culmination of something. It didn’t feel like the absolute beginning.” (Sally Alexander, in an interview 20 years on from the first Women’s Liberation Conference in 1970. Sally was one the two main...

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