The following resolution was carried unanimously at our party’s ninth congress in October.
This congress recognises that the coronavirus pandemic has served as a convenient mask for the latest capitalist crisis – a crisis that was predicted as early as 2016, and which was just beginning to take hold as the pandemic hit.
That crisis, not the coronavirus, is at the root of the series of interconnected catastrophes we have experienced over the last few years: skyrocketing unemployment and the decimation of small and middle-sized businesses; the rise in evictions, threat of evictions and home insecurity; queues for food banks, food insecurity and child hunger.
Beneath this, of course, there has been the attritional privatisation of our public services – an NHS under attack from profiteers within and without; a perennial lack of social housing; our buses and trains no longer fit for purpose – that left poor workers in particular so horrifically exposed to the effects of the virus.
This congress believes that is capitalism’s crisis and decimation of our public services that ensured the effects of the coronavirus were so devastating; reciprocally, the coronavirus has played its own part in exacerbating these fundamental problems.
Congress notes that through the disgraceful failures of Britain, the European Union and the USA to deal with the pandemic, the coronavirus has exposed in the harshest of lights the dystopian dead-end that capitalism offers humanity as a species.
In contrast, congress notes that through the successes of the Communist parties of China and Cuba, the coronavirus has also shed new light on the clear and unarguable superiority of a centralised state response. The success with which those nations have dealt with the crisis demonstrates once again the promise of socialism – that it alone can bring people together in common, collective action for the betterment of humankind.
Congress notes that the rising discontent amongst the British working class – rising demand for economic and social change; rising disillusionment with the Labour party – is the single most crucial consequence of this crisis.
This congress believes that we must take hold of that discontent and turn it to the productive cause of the socialist struggle.
In 2018, long before the coronavirus was conveniently at hand to blame, and in words which have been widely quoted since, the United Nations special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights Philip Alston said: “For almost one in every two children to be poor in twenty-first century Britain is not just a disgrace, but a social calamity and an economic disaster, all rolled into one.”
Congress notes that this statement – its shameful accuracy notwithstanding – is sadly little more than a pale echo of Karl Marx’s own devastating critique made over 150 years earlier:
“We have seen, too, how this [the absolute contradiction between the technical advance of modern industry, and the impoverishment of the masses whose labour created such wealth] vents its rage in the creation of that monstrosity, an industrial reserve army, kept in misery in order to be always at the disposal of capital; in the incessant human sacrifices from among the working class, in the most reckless squandering of labour-power and in the devastation caused by a social anarchy which turns every economic progress into a social calamity.” (Capital, Volume I, Chapter 15)
The Britain that provoked Marx to such a conclusion, the Britain in which capitalism had caused such misery to humanity, such absurd and unnecessary wastage of human life, is the same Britain we live in today.
This congress recognises, therefore, that the characterisation of the present crisis as a once-in-a-century aberration caused by a freak pandemic – a view propagated by the imperialist media – entirely and deliberately misses the point.
This congress believes that the fragility of the capitalist system exposed workers everywhere to the worst ravages of the pandemic, since the particularly devastating effect the coronavirus has had in Britain and across the imperialist nations is a direct consequence of public services having been wrecked by privatisation and profit-seeking.
It was understood as early as 2016, with the results of Operation Cygnus, that our health service was entirely unprepared for a coronavirus pandemic. It had experienced systematic underfunding for decades, including closures of beds, services and hospitals.
Congress notes how the results of Operation Cygnus were buried so as not to disrupt this ongoing strategy of privatisation, and how the emergence of a real-life pandemic has likewise done nothing change this course. The pandemic has been used to make further widespread changes in practice – that access to GPs has been further limited in favour of telephone or virtual consultations is widespread and well-known to all.
Congress notes that in Britain, further privatisation is inevitably proposed as the solution to the problems that privatisation itself has caused. Hundreds upon hundreds of millions of pounds of public money was poured into shoring up private healthcare firms throughout the crisis – this siphoning-off of NHS funding has been performed under the guise of addressing NHS shortcomings, whilst it in fact serves to erode what remains of the public service.
This congress believes that in the face of future pandemics or other health crises, we will not be better prepared, but worse, and this situation will not change as long as the capitalist system itself remains in place. The naked profiteering and general financial incompetence we have witnessed – in the scandal over PPE contracts; in the £37bn wasted on test and trace, and more – are, like the crisis itself, not a freak occurrence. They are intrinsic characteristics of the capitalist system.
This congress therefore takes heart in, and roundly applauds, the resounding successes that have been made throughout the pandemic by China and Cuba – by their governing Communist parties, and by their people as a whole.
China’s coordinated response to the outbreak of the virus has ensured that, in a nation of 1.4 billion people, the death toll has not amounted to more 5,000 people, and that over 1 billion of the population are already vaccinated.
Congress recognises that the speed and efficiency with which China was able to respond to the virus – the mobilisation of forces spearheaded by the People’s Liberation Army to build hospitals in the early days of the pandemic; the mobilisation of local party branches to administer testing and provision of goods to communities; the rapid and rational development and supply of vaccines by state-owned pharmaceutical companies – is due in large part to the strength of its centralised state response, the historic legacy of the socialist system.
In the year of their centenary, it is for this, and for their continuing resilience in the face of increasingly shrill imperialist propaganda over Covid origins tracing, as well as imperialist lies about Xinjiang, that we salute the Communist Party of China and the Chinese people and pledge our ongoing support and solidarity.
Likewise, this congress believes that Cuba remains a beacon of hope to the international working class. Under the unremitting boot-heel of the US blockade, it has succeeded in administering to the health not only of its own people, but also in sending its world-renowned doctors and nurses to countries in need. In South Africa, Togo, Jamaica, Italy, and many other countries around the world, Cuban medical professionals formed the backbone to Covid resistance.
Cuba’s long history of medical internationalism deserves its doctors and nurses the Nobel peace prize many times over. In the year of Fidel Castro’s 95th birthday, we salute the Cuban people’s undying tenacity, both in fighting the coronavirus and in resisting the cruel, vindictive and criminal blockade.
On the basis of all the above, this congress resolves that our party will continue to explain to British workers that Covid-19 is being used as the latest convenient patsy for the systemic and chronic ills of the capitalist system.
At a time when faith in mainstream politicians and mainstream media is especially low, we must – through our work in the Workers party as well as through our work in Proletarian and Lalkar – fill a gap that will otherwise be taken by right-wing bigotry and xenophobia.
Coronavirus has exposed the fatal contradictions of capitalism once again, for the benefit especially of Britain’s younger generations. It has therefore gifted us the opportunity to show these things to the masses once again, with renewed energy and renewed hope.