Solidarity 544, 21 April 2020

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...

Getting safe and equal

The Safe and Equal campaign (safeandequal.org), is continuing to gather steam. A journalist from Left Foot Forward, briefed by our campaigners, confronted Business Minister Alok Sharma on the key issue of our campaign: the fact that many workers only have access to paltry Statutory Sick Pay when self-isolating, a fact which renders many workplaces, and especially NHS sites, unsafe. Sharma responded by blustering about how much he respects carers, but refused to answer the question. As ever in this crisis, the Tories’ Blitz-spirit waffle about their love for NHS staff can’t mask their cold...

What next for Momentum?

Socialists across the country are discussing candidatures for the upcoming elections to the National Coordinating Group of Momentum. The NCG was set up after an office “coup” abolished all previous democratic structures in Momentum. Left slates have run in previous elections, and won good numbers of votes, but generally office-supporting slates have won all or almost all the places, and the NCG has not been lively. Labour for a Socialist Europe is discussing updatings to a platform it adopted in January as a criterion for supporting candidates, and a number of activists have expressed interest...

More nationalism shoved down our throats

The Tories have moved the May Day 2020 bank holiday to 8 May, to commemorate “Victory in Europe” in the Second World War. The plan was for nationalistic “commemorations” across the country. Though the pandemic will tone it down, you can be sure the nationalist jubilee will be marked. We should display banners on the day with messages like “Workers of the world unite” and “International solidarity against the pandemic”. 1 May has been International Workers’ Day since 1904. In 1978 the Labour government made the first Monday in May a bank holiday. In 1993 and again in 2011 the Tories have talked...

Howie Hawkins

After the withdrawal of Bernie Sanders, we are supporting the US presidential campaign of Howie Hawkins. Hawkins, a long-time socialist and associated with the socialist group Solidarity (USA), is running for the Green Party nomination, due to be decided in July 2020. For Hawkins’ campaign, see here, and for our interview with Howie here.

Singapore in the pandemic

Of the 728 new COVID-19 cases reported in Singapore on 16 April, 654 were linked to migrant worker dormitories. In a statement that best captures the racism against foreign workers in Singapore, Cabinet Minister Lawrence Wong said: “We are already having to deal with a foreign worker dormitory cluster. “Let’s not have more clusters emerge outside of that in our own community as well.” An estimated 62,500 migrant workers have been quarantined in just eight foreign worker dormitories. Workers have reported that they are subject to cramped and unhygienic living conditions and have been served...

Brexit is putting lives at risk

As hapless Health Secretary Matt Hancock blames first NHS medics and then clinicians for the desperate shortage of PPE and NHS bosses ask doctors and nurses to work without full-length gowns or re-use single-use PPE, the Guardian has revealed that: “Britain missed three opportunities [on 28 February, 17 March and 25 March] to be part of an EU scheme to bulk-buy masks, gowns and gloves and has been absent from key talks about future purchases... “European doctors and nurses are preparing to receive the first of €1.5bn (£1.3bn) worth of personal protective equipment (PPE) within days or a...

Better independent

Solidarity has argued for radical left Labour MPs to remain on Parliament’s backbenches rather than take positions in Keir Starmer’s ministerial team, so they can better help organise the grassroots activist left and take clear political stands free from the leadership’s restrictions. We were disappointed to learn that two MPs we have great respect for, Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Nadia Whittome, have taken junior positions – Lloyd as Shadow Minister for Natural Environment and Air Quality and Nadia as Parliamentary Private Secretary to Shadow Health Secretary Jon Ashworth. Nadia will be familiar...

When “efficiency” kills

Slow and clumsy responses to the pandemic are down to “pursuit of maximum efficiency — just-in-time manufacturing, supply chains, and deployment of personnel [becoming] the norm across the private and increasingly the public sector”. That’s not a socialist commenting, but a columnist in the Financial Times. “Efficiency” is measured in capitalist terms of visible “market signals”, and so inescapably fails to provide against unknown risks. The FT says: “The over-efficient management of the NHS means that for just-in-case scenarios, we were in deep trouble. There was no margin for error.”

International news: Iran, Kuwait, Singapore, Qatar, Ecuador, New York

Iran’s official figures show new Covid-19 cases peaking there about 30 March and deaths peaking about 4 April, and 5,118 deaths so far. An Iranian activist told Solidarity: “The official figures are rubbish! What the true number is nobody can tell. Some people are saying there is going to be a second wave. Lots of workers have died.” Mohammad-Hossein Sepehri, a teacher jailed in Mashhad’s Vakilabad prison, has contracted coronavirus. He has been denied medical care. There are many teachers and hundreds of other labour and social rights activists languishing in the Iranian regime’s prisons and...

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