At No Safety No Work (NSNW), we have consistently argued that “We Are Not Safe Until We Are All Safe!” Unless we apply the principle of universal solidarity to our management of the SARS-CoV-2 (Covid) pandemic, we will be stuck in an endless cycle of lockdowns and curbs on our personal liberty followed by partial openings up. While the more developed countries in the world continue with their competitive pursuit of private profit for the few, the many will suffer the full consequences of a pandemic which preys on people who have to go out into the public arena to live and move and have their being. Those of us who have to use public transport to get to crowded, covid insecure workplaces, for example.
In the UK, the Johnson government places great store on vaccinating the majority of the adult population. We have realised belatedly that schools are vectors of transmission that lead to the infection of entire communities and have started to vaccinate young people as well. There is even serious talk of vaccinating primary school children.
All this will definitely increase the profits of big pharma but will do little to stop the emergence of new strains in countries which can’t afford to pay protection money to Pfizer. And of course, new strains tend to be more transmissable and disruptive. Rich countries can put as many jabs into the arms of their people as they like but that won’t halt the pandemic while the majority of people in less developed countries don’t have access to even one jab. If the patent laws in all more developed countries are not relaxed to facilitate the production of cheaper vaccines, the working class in all countries will continue to have impoverished lives and face the possibility of death.
The ruling classes of the world need to show more solidarity with the working people of the world if we are to return to anything approaching “normality”. Employers need to pay their workers occupational sick pay, for instance, if “self isolation” is not to amount to penury and starvation. And workers should be paid if they get vaccinated on company time.
The working class needs to show more solidarity with their class as well. The mitigations which we know work to control the spread of the virus such as vaccination, mask wearing, hand washing, ventilation and social distancing need to be adopted more widely. Sneering at minor curbs on our personal freedoms and an “I’ll take my chances/let the devil take the hindmost” attitude will only lead to more unnecessary deaths and suffering. We all need to be having conversations with our fellow workers and families about what we can do to protect ourselves. We cannot leave it to governments to protect us. We know that they cannot be trusted. They will only take measures which protect the wealth of their rich bosses.
We also need to be aware of the influence of far right populism and combat it. Its influence reaches into the hearts of most representative governments. The populism of Trump and Farage still holds sway in the US & UK, for example, and even seems to permeate approaches to public health. We are told that only Democrat voters in the US wear masks and get vaccinated and it would seem that a similar attitude among Tory voters against all forms of mitigation in the UK is affecting Conservative MPs with slim majorities. Perhaps that is why some Tory MPs make a show of not wearing masks. Again, we need to start persuasive conversations with our class to counter the narrative of the far right. We need to replace the mean spirited narrative of the inevitability of greed, corruption and inequality with one that champions kindness, mutual aid and universal solidarity. We need to replace capitalism with Anarchist Communism.