No return to normal
The aftermath of the crisis will challenge globalisation and provide the opportunity for global change. Rightwing leaders have used the crisis as a cover for increased nationalistic and authoritarian measures including attacks on press and media freedom. They have put profit before human lives. They have exposed the inability of capitalism to respond to the coming global climate crisis.
In contrast, working class communities throughout the world have demonstrated solidarity and mutual support in an unprecedented way. The importance of essential public and health services has been demonstrated.
Now is the time for the international labour movement to demand no return to austerity and neo-liberalism, no continuation of repressive and intrusive social controls once the pandemic is controlled, and to put forward progressive and socialist proposals for a new economic and social order based on a global green new deal.
The pandemic has laid bare capitalism’s stark inequalities: ethnic minorities, the poor, the low paid, gig economy workers, and the global south suffer most. It is the duty of the labour movement to make itself an essential service in the emergency; the crisis has made class struggle more not less important. We think Momentum and the Labour Party should put forward demands, including:
A socialist response to the crisis
- Workers, taking expert advice, should have a decisive voice in identifying and running what is essential, and how to work as safely and effectively as possible in the emergency.
- All workers outside essential services should be at home, either working from home or furloughed on full pay.
- In all essential services, unions must insist on full pay for every worker (including zero hours, agency, and subcontractor staff) who takes time off to follow public health advice or because they have to care for children whose schools or nurseries are closed.
- The cancellation of all rent, mortgage, and utility payments during the emergency
- NHS to be free at the point of delivery for all – scrap the annual Immigration Health Surcharge for non-UK workers and the “No Recourse to Public Funds” rules restricting migrants access to public services.
- Cancel student nurse debt and abolish future tuition fees
- Take into public ownership private hospitals, and the pharmaceutical and medical-supplies and services industries, as well as high finance and other sectors where coordinated mobilisation is necessary.
- People held in detention centres and non-violent prisoners who do not present a threat to human life or safety should be released and offered accommodation.
- Housing as a right: Hotels and similar accommodation should also be made available to domestic violence victims, the homeless and others who need them.
- Integrate health and social care, bringing all care homes into the public sector as part of the NHS
- Government support for business to be linked to the payment of all UK taxes and good employment practices
An internationalist response to the crisis
Covid-19 is an international emergency which requires an international response. The labour movement should fight for international coordination on the crisis in terms of medical supplies and resources, including
- Treatments and a vaccine available to everyone for free with no use of people in poor countries as guinea pigs for unsafe trials
- Rehousing of all those in refugee camps and provision of education for all ages
- More resources to be given to the global south, including a mass debt cancellation, and those with limited health infrastructure.
- A lengthy extension of the Brexit transition period
- Fundamental change in the pharmaceutical industry, based on public funding and control
- For the government to work with all relevant European and other international agencies to secure PPE, equipment and research.
- Recognising and sharing of best practice and effective responses to the novel coronavirus outbreak in order to address future waves of infection and to fight against future pandemics. This should include support of WHO and independent scientific and medical experts.