Workers’ Liberty recently held a public debate with a comrade from the Zero Covid campaign. You can read Martin Thomas’ speech at the meeting here. We have criticised Zero Covid's focus on demanding - and having unrealistically high hopes from - police measures like lockdowns, and vagueness on promoting workers' struggles for measures of social solidarity in and against the pandemic. At the same we have proposed working together on building such struggles.
It must be said we were disappointed to read Zero Covid’s motion in Labour left organisation Momentum’s “policy primary” to decide what motions to promote for Labour Party conference. (See p9 in the motions document here.)
The motion makes criticisms of the Tory government’s handling of the pandemic on a number of fronts, including in terms of social provision, but all it actually calls for is:
“Labour to adopt now and in the event of any future similar pandemics policies aimed at the elimination, rather than the containment, of the spread of the disease, working with trade unions and public health experts.
“A forward-looking recovery plan based on the Green New Deal.”
In a spirit of comradely criticism: this is insubstantial in the extreme.
In contrast the motion from the North East, Stevenage and Southampton Momentum groups, “Build back fairer: attack poverty and inequality” (see p5 at link above), advocates a range of social measures which would have made a major difference during the pandemic in terms of both virus-control and inequality; which can make a major difference in future pandemics and social crises; and which can reshape society going forward from this one.
These range from decent sickness/isolation pay for all, reversing NHS privatisation and implementing public ownership of social care to reversing council cuts, increasing benefits, stronger trade union rights and the abolition of the “no recourse to public funds” rule (and much more).
The motion advocates taxing and taking control of wealth from the rich to fund such measures and to attack inequality.
As it says, quoting the Marmot report: “mismanagement during the pandemic, and the unequal way the pandemic has struck, is of a piece with what happened... in the decade from 2010… enduring social and economic inequalities... mean that public health was threatened before and during the pandemic and will be after.” The measures the motion includes are the minimum the labour movement should demand to tackle this reality.
Zero Covid comrades should reflect on their approach.