The Tories have confirmed plans to lift all remaining COVID restrictions on 19 July. But society will not return to ‘normal’. The period ahead will be one of contagion, capitalist crisis, and class struggle. Workers must organise and fight back.
According to Boris Johnson, ‘Freedom Day’ is upon us. The Tories are visibly cock-a-hoop. In the House of Commons yesterday, Conservative MPs were jubilant with cries of “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”
You would think England had won the Euros already. Of course, this had nothing to do with football, or even Brexit, but the imminent lifting of all COVID restrictions.
Johnson told a press conference that “we must be honest with ourselves”. This is pretty rich, coming from a government mired in sleaze and cronyism. “If we can’t reopen our society in the next few weeks,” the PM continued, “when will we be able to return to normal?”
The Prime Minister is proposing to end the lockdown and return to ‘normal’ at a time when infection rates are doubling. We are still in the grip of an epidemic.
Sajid Javid, the new health secretary, has said that new cases could reach 100,000 per day over the summer. Even the government’s scientific advisors have looked alarmed at the rush to raise all restrictions, including social distancing and mask wearing.
The sheer, unforgivable folly of this government in choosing to bin remaining Covid control measures when our infection rates are stratospheric. pic.twitter.com/1a3FZnenKw— Rachel Clarke (@doctor_oxford) July 5, 2021
Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, warned that the epidemic was “significant and rising”. He expects that this winter “may be very difficult for the NHS”. It is clear that many more will be hospitalised and more will die.
“It’s a political choice,” said Professor John Drury of SAGE, “about the extent to which it’s OK that some people get very ill.”
This ‘big bang’ would see all businesses and events opening, without restriction. With only half the population fully vaccinated, the Tories and their big business friends are prepared to let the virus rip through society.
The whole plan is reckless. It is a desperate attempt to completely reopen the economy, whatever the consequences. Businesses are jubilant, keen to get back to maximising their profits.
At first, Israel also seemed to have conquered the virus. The country similarly lifted all its restrictions, but was hit with a new variant and was forced again to lock down.
The Tories, however, are desperate to avoid another lockdown. The government is determined to keep events and businesses open. Of course, working people will face the consequences of this political decision.
The new ‘normal’ will not be honey and apples for ordinary people. Millions would still be susceptible to ‘long COVID’, with the government telling us that we must ‘learn to live with the disease’.
At the same time, millions of workers will be taken off furlough and forced back to work, facing a potentially unsafe situation, or be sacked. Unemployment is certain to grow.
No wonder the trade unions, under pressure from their members, have come out against this reckless Tory strategy.
Lenders and landlords will be demanding payment of accumulated debts. There will be no respite. Despite the difficulties, the capitalists will be piling on the agony.
Workers are experiencing wage cuts, including NHS staff. This has even provoked doctors to threaten strike action.
Once again, the market economy and the interests of private profit rule the roost. Workers will get sick and potentially die – but who cares, as long as the capitalists are making money. Under capitalism, profit is king.
The Tory government has already poured in £354 billion to bailout the capitalist system from this crisis. The public debt has therefore reached over £2 trillion, over 100% of UK GDP. That is why the Tories want to get back to ‘normal’. In doing so, they are getting ready to impose more austerity, even deeper than that seen over the last decade.
The new ‘normal’ also means a return to increasing instability. According to the Office of Budgetary Responsibility (OBR), we are emerging from the “largest peacetime economic and fiscal shock in three centuries”.
This is the second supposedly “once in a century” shock in two decades, following the 2008 crash. These two crises added over £1 trillion (50% of GDP) to public debt. Even leaving the Brexit-induced disruption aside, the economy is badly scarred.
The OBR report continues:
“As countries’ exposure to large, and potentially catastrophic, risks increases, so do the associated risks to their public finances. This is because such risks are not only more disruptive to the economies that generate governments’ revenues, but also because they are more likely to overwhelm private risk management and insurance mechanisms, prompting governments to step in as insurer of last resort.
“This may be particularly true in an era when economic shocks are more severe, financial institutions and forms are more leveraged, and monetary policy is more constrained.”
In other words, we are in a perfect storm. We face a pandemic, climate change, rising debts, and capitalist slump.
Today, capitalism is more unstable, with inherently deeper crises. This reflects the impasse of the system.
With no prospect of economic growth, debt levels have become unsustainable. Increased interest rates threaten to throw households and zombie corporations into bankruptcy. Governments across the world have been forced to bail out the system, acting as the “insurer of last resort”.
On top of this is the increased instability and uncertainty. Regarding future crises, the OBR report adds:
“There is a high degree of uncertainty concerning their timing and associated costs. They are characterised by non-linearities or ‘snowball effects’ in which costs can escalate dramatically from the point of crystallization.
“And they are global in nature, with the potential for rapid contagion across countries.”
This is the new normal. In this new normal, it will not be the billionaires who will pay for this crisis of capitalism, but the working class. This means class struggle on a level not seen before.
The whole situation is preparing revolutionary convulsions everywhere. The ruling class should savour their ‘Hallelujahs’ – they may be their last.