Social and Economic Policy

The underside of plutocrat philanthropy

Tin-hat conspiracy theory claims that vaccinations are a ploy by Bill Gates to implant tracking microchips in our arms communicate at least two lies. There’s the obvious lie, that vaccines contain microchips. Then there’s the subtle, implicit lie: that Bill Gates is helping net global vaccination efforts. Way back in April 2020, Oxford University pledged that they would make any technologies that they develop against the Covid-19 pandemic available under “non-exclusive, royalty-free licences to support” free or cost-price supply. They only pledged to do this for the duration of the pandemic...

Boom for the rich, job cuts for the many

In the USA, job vacancy postings are now 21% above their level in January 2020. The employment rate for well-off workers (on the equivalent of £43,000 a year or more) is now only 2% down on January 2020. The Dow Jones share-price index continues to rise, as it has done since a drastic fall bottomed out in late March 2020. According to Google Mobility reports, US workplace traffic is still down by 28% (more than Germany’s 22%), as many still work from home. But retail traffic is down only 8% on the pre-Covid baseline. The New York Times estimates that businesses are now “mostly open” (though...

Switch off the pump!

Billions have been handed out by the Tories to friends and associates on Test and Trace and PPE contracts, and for poor results. Yet the “Tory sleaze” row has come to focus on Boris Johnson’s redecoration of his Downing Street flat. He gets £30,000 a year public money for redecorating his rent-free accommodation; he scrabbled for more only because he chose especially expensive redecoration; and he may well have broken political-donations law in doing so. There’s nothing unfair about him being pilloried. But his tens of thousands should not overshadow the billions, handed out sleazily but...

Socialism vs sleaze

More and more leaks and side-channels from the pump of plutocracy are becoming visible. Tories are falling out among themselves. Dominic Cummings has denounced Boris Johnson’s behaviour as “mad and totally unethical”. 50% of those polled say there is a “culture of sleaze” in the government. Socialists work to switch off the pump as well as fixing the leaks. The core process of capitalist plutocracy is the transaction in which, though economic compulsion, we sell our labour-power to a capitalist, endowed with riches and control of the means of production. They pay out as meagre a “living wage”...

Workers’ inquiries: knowledge for power

A swirl of billions, and a trickle of pennies. A great effort of science to control Covid, with wildly uneven vaccine supplies and patents and production gripped by profiteering billionaires. Huge subsidies for some in the pandemic, while others lose jobs or have to try to self-isolate with no or little pay and in crowded housing. Where are the billions going? Who’s left with pennies? We need to know. We need to inquire. The Safe and Equal campaign, which Workers’ Liberty supports, recently exposed the fact that workers in the virus Test Centres had no right to isolation pay at all, or only...

Covid: social battles still needed

The world’s measured Covid death rate has gone through a new surge since mid-March. It may be levelling out now, but is still higher than at any time except a peak around late January. Covid is not fading yet. The latest big spike is in India, from early March, where rates have risen from a low in early March to become even higher than India’s previous worst time, in mid-September 2020. Some scientists had thought that some of India’s big cities, at least, had so many people with some immunity from previous infection that non-immunity would be scarce enough to make chains of infection peter...

No Singapore on Teesside

Listening to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, billionaire Rishi Sunak, you could be lured into thinking that the establishment of so-called Freeports in the UK is the cure-all for British economic ills, the “Big Idea”. Sunak has been banging on about Freeports for years, as he did in his recent Budget speech. What’s all the fuss about? Actually — not very much. A Freeport is an area, often around a port or an airport, where the normal rules of import-export do not apply. Imported goods that do not go outside the boundaries of the Freeport are not subject to the usual tariffs, customs duties...

Mick Brooks and expropriating the banks

Longstanding socialist and Labour Party activist Mick Brooks (1948-2021), who died in January as a result of complications from Covid-19, was co-author with Michael Roberts of the Fire Brigades Union’s 2013 pamphlet on public ownership of the banks and high finance, It's time to take over the banks. (The two also ran regular Karl Marx walking tours in London.) In the face of multiple convulsive social crises, the demand for public and democratic control of finance is more relevant and urgent than ever. Mick continued to vocally and actively make the case for it. For those who did not know him...

Requisition Big Pharma!

Governments have financed the Covid-19 vaccines, by subsidies for research and trials and preparing production facilities, by advance orders before it was even known whether the vaccines would work, and by exempting the pharmaceutical firms from risks of court cases if something goes wrong. The labour movement should demand that governments now requisition the “intellectual property” produced with that finance — i.e. make the patents available to any competent producer. There is already a mechanism for that, set up by the World Health Organisation eight months ago, the Covid-19 Technology...

Seize wealth to mend inequality!

The impact of the pandemic has been worsened by, and in turn worsened, many forms of economic and social inequality. In Solidarity 578 I summarised evidence from the Marmot and Deaton reports. As the Marmot report puts it: “mismanagement during the pandemic, and the unequal way the pandemic has struck, is of a piece with what happened in England in the decade from 2010 [i.e. the period of ‘austerity’]… Since then, with the Covid-19 pandemic, the world has changed dramatically. But in England the changes have been entirely consistent with its existing state when the pandemic hit…” Even the...

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