By Mark Buckley
There are almost one million people who have died from Covid-19 in Britain and the US combined, even using the official estimates. The decisions of both Joe Biden and Boris Johnson in recent days will ensure that the death toll will go far higher.
These are conscious decisions, taken in full knowledge of the lethal consequences. But they are made possible because there is no domestic political opposition to their policies and they judge they have pummelled in the population into submission.
This is against an objective situation is that an already catastrophic death toll is now being supplemented by a renewed and rapid rise in cases, driven mainly by the spread of Omicron.
US and British new Covid cases
In response to the upsurge, Biden has washed his hands of the crisis. He told a meeting of State Governors that, “there is no Federal solution to the crisis.” This is despite numerous Federal health agencies and the fact the Republican Governors have generally taken no action at all to impede the virus, some even mandating against the wearing of masks in public.
Johnson has taken the same route. The three devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and the North of Ireland all took co-ordinated measures to inhibit the spread of the virus just before the spread of the holidays, but Johnson refused.
He also ignored the advice from his own scientific advisers that some measures to restrict the virus were necessary. The right-wing press and the cranks in the Covid Research Group and beyond were jubilant. The clear impression given is that they now determine policy after the Tory parliamentary rebellion and in light of Johnson’s personal scandals.
It is extremely unlikely that the devolved administrations would have all taken action simultaneously without the agreement of Westminster, given they can be subject to populist criticism and the logistical difficulties that arise.
There will be no opposition in the US to Biden’s decision to encourage mass deaths and none from Starmer in this country. Starmer’s abject subservience is so complete he even did a complete U-turn when he realised Johnson had backtracked from taking new measures.
The labour movement in the imperialist countries and the left in general has been disastrously passive on the issue of the pandemic. Talking of a future ‘build back better’ while the pandemic is rampant is akin to repeating the ruling class slogan of a ‘land fit for heroes’ while the First World War raged. Calling only for better sick pay, or more masks is equivalent to calling for better bandages rather than an end to the war.
There should be no misunderstanding, this is an enormous class struggle. The central estimate from The Economist is now that there 18.6 million dead globally, comparable to major war.
The dead are overwhelmingly workers and the poor, with disabled people and ethnic minorities bearing the brunt. The other aspects of the international ruling class offensive, cutting wages and welfare, cutting public spending and abolishing hard-won rights (including the right to vote, rights to assembly and abortion rights) are all made possible by letting the pandemic continue.
Fortunately, some on the left internationally understand this.
In this country, the minority opposition to government eugenicist policies is led by Diane Abbott, the Morning Star, and a band of other MPs and leading trade unionists. Some of the leading scientists and medics have not given up the fight.
Extending the pandemic allows the ruling class offensive to continue. It is the centrepiece of government policy. So the struggle will be a prolonged one.