Poverty and inequality

Socialism and charity: ending food poverty

In response to the Conservative Government voting down a Labour Party motion to extend free school meal provision during school holidays, swathes of cafes, pubs, and restaurants across the country have stepped up to the plate, as it were, pledging to provide free meals to anyone who needs them. This has prompted an outpouring of congratulatory sentiment from across the social spectrum, with individuals, celebrities, and politicians from Nigel Farage to Sadiq Khan welcoming their generosity. Marcus Rashford, footballer and campaigner against child hunger, has been compiling a list of them all...

The pandemic from further back

Since the start of the pandemic there have been almost daily warnings of the effects that this natural disaster will have on our mental health. The impending mental health crisis has even been given a name: the “shadow pandemic”. However, beneath the headlines, there is surprisingly little hard evidence. Many surveys have found people increased levels of stress and anxiety, but that is not the same as mental illness. Some papers have predicted a big spike in mental illness based on patterns from previous natural disasters and economic crises. However the workings of the human mind are complex...

The New Jim Crow

Police violence in the USA is only a shore of a whole continent of racial oppression and marginalisation, so Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book, now a “classic”, The New Jim Crow. Alexander is a civil rights lawyer by trade. Chunks of the book are lawyerly, dissecting a string of Supreme Court rulings. She says herself that she wouldn’t have got to a “fancy law school” without affirmative action rules. Her punchline, though, is that racial oppression is knitted into a larger system of social inequality, and measures which create a bigger black middle class aren’t enough. “Piecemeal...

Organise to make the future safe and equal for all

The great wave of street protests after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May still continues, but the pace looks like slowing. Activists will be thinking about how they can continue their efforts over the months and years needed to win and consolidate change. That this killing has generated so broad a protest must be partly because a pandemic which has hit the worst-off hardest everywhere, and a wave of job cuts which has done similar, especially in the USA, are in everyone's minds.

Still only 40% of care homes with isolation pay

Almost a third of COVID-19 deaths, over 16,000 people, have occurred in care homes. Careworkers are twice as likely to die of COVID-19 as the general public. A little acknowledged but major factor in these carehome deaths is the low pay and insecure employment of careworkers. It is estimated that around 440,000 care workers have no rights to occupational sick pay. If they develop symptoms of Coronavirus or a member of their household develops symptoms, then they are faced with an impossible choice: take time off on Statutory Sick Pay (just £95.85 a week) or continue to work potentially...

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...

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