Covid19 Health Care and Socialism
BioNTech/Pfizer’s new mRNA vaccine promises a very encouraging development in the war on Covid. It uses the virus’s genetic code rather than any part of the virus itself. BioNTech had been working on the virus before joining with U.S. giant pharmaceutical firm, Pfizer, to go into production. First results from phase 3 vaccine trials suggest it is 90% effective. However, the WHO has urged caution against over-optimism. And problems remain because poorer countries would be last in the queue for a vaccine that must be stored at -80 degrees Celsius. Oxford University/Astra Zeneca vaccine is based on a different technology, which may be similarly successful.
There is no doubt that much is being learned medically about Covid19 during the present pandemic. However, it is important that political lessons are learned too. The countries around the world with the best outcomes so far, are those that put saving lives at the forefront. The experience of China should have been an early warning to the capitalist world. However, many countries were slow to react and did not prepare.
There were many accusations especially from the US who are anti China about secrecy and hiding the truth. China was the first country to face the virus, they had to work it out for themselves but immediately put measures in place once they realised what they were dealing with. They first shut down Wuhan and then the province. In due course, more of China was closed. Some countries were thought to be ‘over-reacting’ to the threat, but time has shown that they were right to do so. Efficient track and trace systems were put into effect, state run and not handed over to private companies, as in the UK.
In Cuba, a labour-intensive door to door track and trace programme was instigated by the state, mostly using 29000 medical students. In addition, Cuba sent medical staff to other countries to help them.
Other main areas that did well were Venezuela and the province of Kerala in India where the public sector was able to participate.
Vietnam does not have a free health care system yet, although it is planned. At present health insurance is still in place. However, they shut down their long border with China and treated the virus as if it were biological warfare long before the WHO named it as a pandemic. The government depoliticised the pandemic by treating it purely as a health emergency. Vietnam’s policy was to save lives first and worry about the economy later. Some people will have suffered more than others but with an aggressive track and trace system many lives have been saved. Vietnam also sent PPE to the US – an irony lost on many in the USA.
Learning Lesson from Socialist Countries
The main lessons to be learned from the socialist countries were that they not only acted upon the science but had built and used a strong public sector. They were also able to switch manufacturing to the making of PPE to meet their own needs.
Internationalism meant that they shared their information with the world and are participating in an international vaccine programme. Not vaccine nationalism USA style.
New Zealand was also accused as ‘over-reacting’ to the virus. They shut down their borders and contained the virus. They had an efficient track and trace system and helped save their hospitality industry.
In Britain, initially, the government had public support for Covid19 measures, including a national lockdown. Now however, support is evaporating.
Despite government insistence that it is following the science, crucial mistakes were made at the outset. Under the guise of protecting the NHS, seriously ill people were released from hospitals back into care homes (84% of which are privately owned, many making a profit out of illness), which produced thousands of deaths and accelerated the spread of the virus. Too many people have died unnecessarily through government inaction, carelessness and slavish adherence to private companies and organisations. Billions have been thrown at private companies, often with Tory party connections, despite repeated failures across the board.
Meanwhile, hospitals are in danger of being overwhelmed. University hospital trusts in Birmingham and Manchester have made decisions to stop many major operations and direct all efforts to Covid patients. Andy Burnham makes his voice heard in Greater Manchester; one moment he’s railing against “punishing” local restrictions, next, he backs a national “circuit-breaker” lockdown.
The much-promised world-beating testing and contact tracing system promised back in May has still not materialised – and never will while it is in the hands of companies like Serco. A command and control system does still not exist.
Pandemic Planning in Britain a Mess
Pandemic planning is split between the Joint Biosecurity Centre, the National Covid Response Centre and the Covid19 Taskforce, all operating from different sites. Four separate IT systems are used (Synergy, CTAS, SGSS and HP Zone), meaning data is lost and work is carried out by a mish-mash of Whitehall officials, consultants and under-resourced local authorities.
Around 300 000 people a day are being tested, while government says it’s on course to hit the target of a million by Christmas. The government’s scientific advisory group, SAGE, says it’s not enough. Results are taking much too long to process; as few as 63% of close contacts are being told to self-isolate.
NHS Test and Trace is having only a “marginal impact” on transmission. Testing was never given the priority it should have been with tracing outsourced to Serco. £12 billion was allocated, with no penalty causes for missed targets; where has our money gone? On tracing, local health teams with local knowledge would have done a much better job. The Johnson government has been secretive in its dealings with the private sector. A sweet manufacturer in Northern Ireland was given £108 million in contracts to produce PPE without any competitive tenders; it smacks of incompetence and corruption.
Covid19 and infectious diseases kill people, as does capitalism. The mixture of the two is a catastrophic combination that will return again and again unless the link is broken. Now more than ever, we need must protect people not profit
Labour Party Turmoil
Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension from the Labour Party is a disgraceful and calculated political act, but no surprise.
The Labour Party has always been such a broad church it has admitted and often put into power opponents of its central principles and purpose.
Everyone knows Corbyn doesn’t have a racist cell in his body. He has campaigned all his life against racism. He sought to eject racists from the party and did more to achieve this than his predecessors.
So what’s the point of it all? Starmer wants to signal to Israel, NATO and the US that the Party is back on side. It is an extreme right manoeuvre cynically and in a cruel way masquerading as anti-Semitism.
Unlike other episodes in the long history of official Labour purges on more socially minded members, this cocky tactic represents an attempted refutation of a whole anti capitalist wave that developed from 2015 to 2019, and dissipated in fatal confusions over implementing the EU referendum result and the subsequent election of a new leader.
Coup Actors Trounced in Elections by MAS
Eleven months after the coup by right wing shock groups with the support of the army and police, the Bolivian people elected the MAS-IPSP candidates Luis Arce Catacora and David Choquehuaca as President and Vice-president with an overwhelming 55.09% of the vote. The vote was 26.26% higher than the second Carlos Mesa of Comunidad Ciudadana a coalition of centre right parties who had collaborated in the coup. It was also 10.18% higher than the combined votes of all other candidates.
Camacho the ultra right wing candidate from Santa Cruz only won votes in provinces in Santa Cruz and Beni. Of the 9 departments of Bolivia MAS won in 6, Mesa won in two, Beni and Tarija and Camacho won in Santa Cruz. The support for MAS across the country is clearer at the level of the provinces. Out of 112 provinces in the country MAS won in 98. This is clear in the map below:
Bolivians also elected their representatives in the legislative branch, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. MAS won majorities in both chambers, winning 75 deputies out of 130 in the chamber of Deputies and 21 senators out of 36.
The overwhelming support for MAS is critical in pre-empting another coup. There were attempts by right wing groups to create problems through violence to create an excuse for army and police intervention to cancel the elections, which is why Evo Morales called on MAS supporters to maintain calm and discipline and not respond to provocations. The people had fought hard to win the elections. They were postponed 3 times with the excuse of the pandemic. In August demonstrations, strikes and road blockages forced the government to set a firm date for the elections for 18-10-2020, which was ratified by congress.
Right wing government-a lesson in corrupt dictatorship
The vote increased for MAS compared to the annulled 2019 elections when MAS won by 47.08% to 36.51% for Mesa. Eleven months of government by the right wing coup actors showed their corruption and incompetence. One example which made the news was their claim to have bought 500 intensive therapy beds to treat Covid patients which could not be found anywhere and the purchase of ventilators from Spain unsuitable for intensive therapy for which they claim to have paid prices 3 times higher than the listed ones. Their minister Murillo, who made his name persecuting MAS activists, also acted against government officials who asked questions about financial dealings. People also remember the massacres of demonstrators by the army at Sacaba and Sencata where 21 people were killed and hundreds wounded.
The government passed a law giving the army and police immunity for their actions against demonstrators. This law was repealed later by congress where MAS had a majority. Many of the young, had not experienced right wing rule, as the pre-coup MAS government had lasted 14 years.
Reaction against inclusion
But the most offensive actions by the coup actors was their obvious racism and rejection of the inclusion of the people of Native American extraction (85% of the population) by attacking their flag, the Wiphala and bringing a large Bible into the government ‘to eradicate devils signs’. Those images are unforgettable to all Bolivians.
The election results put Bolivia back on course to keep building the
Plurinational State of Bolivia. We must join their celebrations.
Wiphala flag on the left next to Bolivian flag, Blue MAS flags at MAS celebration of the election victory.
Feed The Bairns Ye Tory Rats
Decisive Victory for Bolivian Democracy
The world should celebrate the decisive landslide vote for Luis Arce in Bolivia’s general election on 18 October 2020.
His party, Movimiento al Socialismo (Mas), has not only taken the presidency but also secured majorities in both houses of congress.
This is a huge step forward for Bolivia following the military coup in November 2019 that overthrew President Evo Morales and installed the right-wing regime of Jeanine Áñez, bent on neoliberal policies, privatisation and austerity. One of the coups first acts was to deport 700 Cuban doctors who were providing public healthcare. In addition, security forces massacred dozens of unarmed Mas supporters.
Yet the power of the right was limited. The working-class Mas base used the threat of mass disruption, combined with parliamentary pressure to ensure new elections would take place, and Mas would be allowed to compete in them.
Mas victory also lies in the popularity of its policies. It was those policies and their contrast with the current regime’s that won the election for Arce. Supporters remember that when Morales was in power, during his first year in office he nationalised the natural gas industry, dramatically increasing state revenues. The resulting public investments reduced poverty for millions of Bolivians.
Another factor in the MaS victory is its approach to dealing with Covid 19. In contrast, the Áñez regime had a disdain for Covid victims, resulting in Bolivia having the world’s third-highest per-capita death rate from the pandemic. And as patients died, regime officials stole from the healthcare system.
President Arce will inherit this dire situation. Bolivia remains a poor country, and major resources and socialist coordination will be needed to contain the virus.
The election was a big win for Bolivian democracy, and while the next few years will not be easy, he has many friends he can count on around the world.
Scottish Independence: EU Domination
The Currency Question
The options before Scotland in a future referendum planned for before May 2021 are to stay in the Union, thus keeping the pound, or become independent and, according to the SNP, set up a new currency. For the SNP, Greens etc. their long-term aim is to take Scotland back into the EU. In this case Scotland will probably have to adopt the Euro, become subject to the European Central Bank, and be bound by the Stability Pact. The so-called independence from Britain will become dependence on and domination by the EU.
Separation from the rest of Britain, will mean not only giving up the pound, damaging an integrated economy, and carving up industries, but for workers it will lead to a splitting up of working class unity, organisation and ability to struggle which have been jointly forged as our class developed from the 17th century on.
In 2014 the independence referendum voted against the Scottish separatists and plans for secession from Britain. The SNP had wished to use the pound and be part of a customs union with the rest of the UK, but the Westminster coalition government refused to negotiate on any points with respect to currency and they refused to become involved in a customs union. Westminster was insisting on total sovereignty over its currency.
The SNP arguments in favour of a customs union, were that not to have one would harm business, not only in Scotland but across the rest of the UK. Failing agreement on a customs union, the SNP suggested that they could unilaterally adopt the pound as their currency. However, critics in the independence movement pointed out that a currency union would leave Scotland without an independent currency and would be leave Scotland subject to rules set by the Bank of England and, ultimately, domination of the Scottish economy by the rest of the UK. To adopt the pound without agreement would mean decisions affecting the Scottish economy could be made by a ‘foreign’ power, without the need to take account of Scottish interests.
After the SNP defeat in the referendum, Salmond and Sturgeon said the vote was a once in a generation event and accepted the result.
However, within a year they were preparing the ground to reject the mandate of the Scottish people. After June 2016, when Britain voted to leave the EU, the SNP used this as an excuse to call for another referendum on Scottish independence. Within three months they began preparing the ground with the establishment of the Sustainable Growth Commission, led by MSP Andrew Wilson.
The Commission reported in 2018 and with regards to currency established six tests that needed to be satisfied to achieve a sustainable fiscal position. The tests concerned debt level and budget deficit; the Scottish central bank’s credibility; a currency that would meet the needs of the people and business; sufficient reserves; fitment to trade patterns; and a decoupling from UK business cycles.
Andrew Wilson in presenting the report argued that it might take up to 10 years to achieve fiscal sustainability. The opponents in the SNP will not prepared to wait that long, they suggested an immediate change to a new currency or at least one within a short time frame.
At the 2019 SNP Spring conference Sturgeon ignored the six tests and called for a second referendum; the Scottish government decided to press for this and issued a timetable for adopting a new currency. This planned the establishment of a Scottish reserves bank, with the timetable of January 2024 for the adoption of new currency.
At the end of the day, it is essential that the Scottish people see this for what it is; nothing more than the breakup of Britain so that Scotland can tie itself closer to the EU.
The Price of Aid
Humans vs Markets
Workers' Party of Britain Statement
The Fight Against Covid-19
Workers' Party of Britain Statement
Workers' Party of Britain Statement
January 31st - Independence Day
Workers' Party of Britain Statement
There is nothing more politically precious than self-determination. National independence is the key to democratic and economic progress.
The banks and large corporations have created a new world order of international free trade agreements, highly mobile capital flows and supranational bodies like the IMF, WTO, and EU. To free themselves to plunder, they had to break down national democratic parliaments and over rule the sovereign laws and protections of individual countries. The EU, aided by both the Tories and then New Labour, conducted a slow motion coup d’etat against Britain. First, our material sources of independence in agriculture, engineering and energy supply were pulled apart. Then, our public services and utilities were hollowed out and put under foreign ownership. As part of the attack, the global reach of the City of London and its speculators was given free reign as our own people started to starve and rely on food banks. Those manufacturers and service providers that remained were forced to compete for public contracts under the procurement rules in an unfair, rigged single EU market. Petty divisions within Britain were stoked by the EU under the illusion that if Scotland and Wales broke away they would be rewarded with a form of ‘independence’ that made them entirely subservient to the EU.
Labour Movement Abandoned Sovereignty
The Trade Union Movement and the Labour Party abandoned Britain’s sovereignty and in a complete rejection of our democratic history, they believed that the unelected in Brussels and the European Court of Justice would save us. As a result, the vast majority of the working class abandoned them. Today there are six million workers in the trade unions but twenty six million unorganised. Worse still, in 1980 trade unions had collective bargaining rights for more than 80% of workers. Today, it is less than 20%. The majority of people do not want to be part of a movement that has nothing to offer them and that has no confidence that our collective struggle and not the EU is the key to all progressive change. In the absence of trade union or Labour Party commitment to Britain, workers supported latecomers to the field of anti-EU work like UKIP and the Brexit Party and, ultimately, had to force their arch opponents, the Tory Party, to get the country out.