Covid-19 is having an incredible effect on how we perceive ‘essential workers’ in our society. Even Boris Johnson has been forced to admit that there “really is such a thing as society” – an ironic reference to Margaret Thatcher’s infamous claim that “there’s no such thing as society”. (There is such a thing as society, says Boris Johnson from bunker, The Guardian, 29 March 2020)
Not only does society exist, but we are learning daily what the really important jobs are, and just what it means to be an ‘essential’ worker, doing some of the lowest-paid, least respected and most insecure jobs, many of which had previously been dismissively categorised by commentators and economists as ‘unskilled’.
Now that push has come to shove, it transpires that it is not the bankers, CEOs and hedge-fund managers who keep Britain moving, but the transport and supermarket workers, the factory workers and cleaners, the construction workers and binmen, the careworkers and nurses who hold the whole show together, and without whose labours we would all be sunk.
Right now, low-paid and formerly unappreciated workers like nurses, cashiers, binmen and bus drivers are putting their lives on the line to help us survive this pandemic, and public support is firmly behind them, even while the ruling class refuses to do what is necessary to reward them or properly protect them.
The working class, as a side product of this crisis, is discovering its value in a society that for too long has been telling them they were less than nothing. From all sides now comes the cry: “Things cannot go on as they did before!”
Organised effectively into a fighting force, workers can sweep away the billionaire capitalist parasites and their lackeys, reorganising society on the basis of need rather than profit.
With a centrally planned socialist economy, we can ensure that everyone lives a life of worth and meaning, that work is socially necessary and properly rewarded, that no-one can get rich from exploitation, and that absolutely no-one ever again has to suffer the indignity of going hungry while food is thrown away.