By Daniel Waldron
On the anniversary of the first lockdown in the UK, Boris Johnson proclaimed to Tory backbenchers, “The reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends.” The real result of the Tories’ callous, pro-capitalist policies during the Covid pandemic has been almost 130,000 lost lives, one of the highest per-capita death rates in the world. They were reluctant to lock down and rushed to re-open the economy, all because they wanted to minimise disruption to profit.
Clinging to dogmatic belief in the superiority of the ‘free’ market and the private sector, they outsourced PPE provision and creation of test-track-and-trace systems, often to Tory cronies with no expertise in these fields. These proved to be unmitigated disasters, leading to thousands of unnecessary deaths while costing the public billions.
The vaccine programme has undoubtedly been a success, but this is despite – not because of – capitalism and greed. The vaccines themselves – including that developed in partnership between Oxford University and AstraZeneca – are the product of huge public sector intervention and subsidies, which allowed rapid research and production. The profits, however, will be the property of the private pharmaceutical giants, who will put the world’s poor to the back of the queue.
The efficient rollout of the vaccine has only been possible because of the existence of the NHS and the self-sacrifice and dedication of tens of thousands of health workers. While the Tories hypocritically joined in the applause for NHS staff, they now intend to thank them for their efforts with a 1% ‘pay-rise’ – while the hoarded wealth of the billionaires and pandemic-profiteers remains sacrosanct.
The socialist alternative
What is true of the Tories is true of the Dublin government and every pro-capitalist government around the world, to a greater or lesser degree. It is solidarity, co-operation and the efforts of working-class people in every essential industry, in every community and workplace which have kept society functioning throughout this pandemic, in spite of the parasitic capitalist system and its never-ending drive for profit above all else.
This gives a glimpse of what we could achieve, what kind of society we could build, if our wealth and resources were used in a planned and democratic way to provide for the needs of people and planet, not for the profit-margins of billionaires. It also gives a glimpse of the collective power which the working class has to consign both Covid and capitalism to the history books, and fight for a socialist future.