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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Time to demand answers!

by New Worker correspondent

AT LONG LAST the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be in retreat in Britain at least, with the nation now finally catching up with Cuba and People’s China. The vaccination programme seems to be making sufficient impact to allow us to do something other than hold Zoom meetings about how wonderful Zoom meetings are.

It is unlikely that the experience of the pandemic is automatically going to make people more revolutionary. One of the amusing features of relaxing the first lockdown was people making cardboard cars so that they could purchase Macdonald’s hamburgers from the drive-in hatches when the main restaurants were still closed. The dramatic boom in sunny holiday bookings reported this week suggests that most people have less than revolutionary thoughts in mind, whilst predatory retailer Amazon has acquired armies of new fans.

During the war, when the new magic bullet of penicillin was introduced, the British Army in north Africa had a dilemma over its use. Was it for soldiers gravely wounded in battle who would then be shipped home, or those who could be cured of infections picked up in the back streets of Cairo who would be restored to fighting capacity?

The decision finally made in Downing Street was in favour of the heroes of Cairo rather than El Alamein.

Similar battles are being fought out today to prioritise the claims for various groups of people to get the vaccine. The teachers’ union want teachers to be a priority whilst the transport and health unions have made what are perhaps more solidly grounded claims. Some right-wingers accuse unions pressing their legitimate demands of wanting to kill off the nation’s grandmothers. The working class needs to oppose any attempts at divide and rule.

Widespread efforts by many employers to fire and rehire on worse terms and conditions have, once again, exposed the “we are all in this together” for the nonsense it always was. But it is a reminder, for those who need it, that the class struggle never goes away.

Looking forwards to the future, on Tuesday Unite the union advocated a “shovel ready” programme for the manufacturing sector to reignite the economy with seven massive projects that would boost jobs to escape from the worse slump in three centuries, and 1.74 million already on the dole.

The first is a Housing Retrofit programme to increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions from housing, the second a carbon capture use and storage project to use North Sea gas and oil networks to store excess carbon. Also on the menu is an Automotive Renewal Scheme to support UK-made vehicles. It also wants a similar Aircraft Renewal Scheme to build new cleaner aeroplanes, although one might wonder why more cars and planes is automatically a step towards a greener economy.

Unite wants to double the number of UK wind turbines by 2024, to create 13,000 jobs within three years.

The union also wants high-speed fibre optic broadband in every home, and seven “gigafactories” to build seven new electric-vehicle (EV) battery factories and the manufacturing of other high value EV components here in the UK.

That is all very well, and no doubt other demands can be made, such as for the establishment of industries devoted to essential medical supplies and protective equipment, the lack of which saw Britain dependent on Chinese supplies. They must be fought for in the streets if they are not to become just another set of newspaper headlines.

The labour movement also needs to demand proper inquiries into the handling by the British and devolved governments of the pandemic. The inquiries need to be real inquiries, not a Royal Commission that sits for years and takes minutes to no good purpose except to cause delay.

There is no shortage of serious questions that need to be asked about cronyism, with huge contracts going to friends of government ministers who had no actual supplies to deliver, the uselessness of the costly track and trace systems whilst other countries managed, to say nothing of emptying the hospitals to spread infections. And that’s just for starters.