Friday 29 October 2021

It doesn't have to be like this


The difference in approach to the pandemic between the English government and the Welsh government has been on display again this week, with the Welsh government inching cautiously towards further restrictions whilst Booster Johnson claims that there is no need for further action because the trend is in line with what was expected. It is, according to him, all going to plan. Drakeford’s caution is understandable; short of independence, he simply does not have the power to take the necessary economic steps to back up further restrictions to the extent which the situation requires, and in the absence of action by the UK Treasury, unilateral action in Wales would mean people here paying a high price. His unionist mindset prevents him reaching the logical conclusion, in the absence of which we are likely to end up with the worst of both worlds – continuing with the highest rate of infection as well as the tightest restrictions.

However, Johnson’s claims about everything being in line with the plan deserve rather more scrutiny than they are being given. The daily rate of premature deaths due to the pandemic is currently erratic to say the least, but the number of deaths per week has been 500 or more for the last three months, and is currently running at around 750. Johnson’s ‘plan’ effectively assumes that it will continue at that rate for the remainder of the autumn and winter. To put that another way, the UK government proactively planned to stand aside and allow more than 7,500 deaths over the last three months and is planning to allow another 10,000 or more preventable premature deaths over the next few months. Seen from Downing Street, these 17,500 people (on top of those who died during the earlier stages of the pandemic) are mere statistics, an ‘acceptable price’ to pay for maintaining the profits of the capitalists who fund the Conservative Party.

But each of those people is an individual, with family, friends and maybe others who depend on them. The death rate due to Covid may be an obvious example of government priorities, but it doesn’t stand in isolation – the government’s approach to benefits will plunge millions of people into poverty this coming winter. The surprising thing is that this callous approach to the health and wellbeing of ordinary citizens has not led to more dissent. Donald Trump famously said that he could stand on 5th Avenue in New York and start shooting people, and it wouldn’t affect his support. Boris Johnson is demonstrating the truth of the sentiment.

It underlines the extent to which capitalist ideology and the selfishness associated with it have come to dominate thinking. Trump’s supporters didn’t believe that they would be the ones being shot on 5th Avenue, and Johnson’s supporters don’t believe that they’ll be the ones dying or being impoverished by his actions. They see it, probably subconsciously without even really thinking about it, as being in their own interests to believe the lie that the poor have only themselves to blame, or that the victims of Covid have either brought it on themselves or would have died soon anyway. And it is in the interests of capital and those who own and control it to ensure that most of us never get to understand that we have more in common with each other than we do with them. It doesn’t help that the main opposition party at UK level basically buys into the same ideology; they might want to tinker a bit with some of the detail, but the basics are broadly accepted, along with the need to ensure that we remain divided.

It doesn’t have to be this way, though; there are other ways of organising an economy or a society. Where are the politicians brave enough to make the case? Anyone not making the case against the current system is effectively supporting its continuation.

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