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Class and Covid November 23, 2020

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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A piece by Guardian associate editor Julian Coman makes a good point about how:

A nascent anti-lockdown movement, led by the Faragian right and fellow travellers within the Tory party, will try to consolidate the cultural takeover that began with Brexit. The response should not be merely to point to statistical charts or scientific studies, decry fake news, deprecate anti-vaxxers and ridicule false allegations about shadowy elites. Nor should it be to focus, as Angela Merkel did in the Bundestag at the end of October, on the “lies and disinformation, conspiracy theories and hatred [which] damage not only the democratic debate but also the fight against the virus”. Even though that might indeed be true. After too often demonstrating a tin ear for the preoccupations and perceptions of the post-industrial working class, the liberal left cannot afford to make the same mistake again. In the short term it must lobby for far greater social protection for those worst hit by the economic fallout of Covid. Beyond that, it must develop a radical politics that can build on the sense of togetherness and solidarity that was present in the spring. Class and Covid will be a dominant theme of a difficult winter. It must not be left to the divisive opportunism of Nigel Farage.


The problem, as always, is precisely how can one develop that radical politics. I do agree that significant social supports for workers (and businesses) are essential in forging precisely that approach. Otherwise the space opens up for those who are more than happy to deny everything and simultaneously point the finger of blame at the left. That’s a neat trick, and as we’ve seen in the US, it has some weight to it as an approach even when those making the case are entirely without credibility.

Indeed I’d argue that much of that comes from as deep rooted a fear of the virus and its implications as denial of it. Coman makes an even better point here about that ‘The knife-edge results of the American presidential election suggest a messier, less palatable truth: for those fearing poverty and destitution, the transgressive folly of Donald Trump on his release from hospital, unmasked, defiant and reckless, carried a widespread appeal and even a message of hope.”

It’s not that people entirely disbelieve what is going on, but that some, perhaps many, will look for hope in the most threadbare rhetoric if those making the case seem authoritative.
And that is a problem for the left.

Strikingly in this state the further left, PBP, RISE and the WP have been particularly strong on support for both societal solidarity for workers and for staying with scientific analysis. Others on the left have been reasonably good but in some instances not great. Elsewhere one can see the ‘centre’ right parties conflicted as they come under massive pressure from business interests.

But, as always, if the virus is let rip it is workers who will bear the brunt. Coman notes:

The biggest victims of lockdowns and curfews have been blue-collar workers, the self-employed and those whose livelihoods depend on servicing the better-heeled in the metropolises of early 21st-century capitalism. Hairdressers, bar workers, shop workers, taxi drivers and waiters were all on the frontline of the battle against the R number. If you have to leave home to do your job, you are probably in trouble. If you are securely ensconced in the better-paid knowledge economy, and able to retreat to the virtual world of Zoom, you’re probably still in business.

The problem is that it is precisely those cohorts – Hairdressers, bar workers, shop workers, taxi drivers and waiters – who will be impacted by an unconstrained environment too. We see it already in hospitals even under lockdown where health workers are in some places falling ill to the virus and due to that illness are unable to carry out their roles in areas far from Covid-19. Even in Sweden, supposed tribune of laissez-faire the last month has seen a radical tightening of constraints.

So the argument and approach has to be one that places the interest of workers and society at its heart, one that offers some end point beyond both lockdowns and equally or even more harmful ‘reopenings’.

Comments»

1. Roger Cole - November 23, 2020

Social Solidarity can only be successfully built around National Democracy, not around EU solidarity. Its main drive for solidarity is spend €billions to create an EU Army to prepare for war against ‘evil’ Russia and ‘evil’ China. It will not benefit shop workers etc.

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WorldbyStorm - November 23, 2020

That may or may not be correct but I can’t see any mention of EU solidarity in the original piece or in the post above.

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FergusD - November 23, 2020

I disagree. The virus doesn’t respect borders or nationality. An international approach is needed and the EU would be a good place to start. An EU wide policy on vaccines, designed to help those most at risk and poorer member states. A class-based approach. That is what the left should be arguing for.

‘National Democracy’? I’ve got to say that sounds rather rightist to me.

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2. gregtimo - November 23, 2020

Ok so the ‘Further Left’ (almost surprisingly) got this one right as their lives depend on it (as do all of us) , but they dont seriously want power, so it will be left again to those of us with more pragmatic mindsets to try to address the fallout of the Pandemic from the debacle of neo-liberal capitalism. There is a need to concentrate on how to build a replacement to capitalism for real now, so hard as it is, sectarian squabbles need to be contained . There has been some unfortunate laxity by some in the past due the big problem of Fake News infection in the general population to my chagrin I admit. Must try harder to stay educated

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3. sonofstan - November 23, 2020

There’s an interesting point I came across in a lecture by the late David Graeber where he notes that peole seem to feel that the less meaningful or useful your job is, the more you should be paid, to compensate for the anomie, whereas if you do something useful, that’s it’s own reward, because meaning and being valued will do instead of having enough to pay the rent. it’s not that ‘we’ think you’re expendable: it’s rather that we know how much you care, and therefore we just know you’ll want to risk your life to deliver parcels for Amazon.

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