By Paul Feldman and Corinna Lotz
Now is absolutely the right time to consider what kind of society we want when, thanks entirely to the heroic efforts of health service, other front-line workers and community solidarity, the coronavirus pandemic is eventually suppressed.
A return to “normal” after the pandemic clearly won’t be possible, let alone desirable. The global economy, driven by ruthless exploitation of people and nature alike, is likely to lie in ruins. Some economists are predicting a slump worse than that of the 1930s.
It is totally unacceptable that a capitalist society that constantly recreates destructive, lethal conditions like those we are living through should then be allowed to impose the harshest austerity on the very workforce and communities that are standing firm.
What should the new “normal” be? Given the origins and spread of the virus, a radically different relationship of society with nature, with the ecosystems that sustain all life forms, and of people with their governments and state systems, is essential and urgently needed.
The crisis has shown that it is ordinary workers who keep society going because the state was totally unprepared for the pandemic. Neither the existing state nor the corporations can solve the multiple crises – economic, ecological, social and political – except at the expense of the many including even the most essential workers.
Pharmaceutical corporations guided by profit margins and not public health, have totally failed society. They declined to develop a vaccine for the Covid group of viruses when SARS first appeared in 2002. Only when massive government orders are in prospect has Big Pharma become interested. As doctor James Hamblin, who lectures on public health at Yale, notes:
“Even still, drug companies have generally found it more profitable to invest in the daily-use drugs for chronic conditions. And coronaviruses could present a particular challenge in that at their core they, like influenza viruses, contain single strands of RNA. This viral class is likely to mutate, and vaccines may need to be in constant development, as with the flu.”
The UK state headed by the reactionary Tory government has forfeited its authority to rule over us because it has:
– Sponsored corporate-driven globalisation which is the root cause of Covid-19 with its prioritising of profit over public health and exploitation of nature
– Failed to prepare for a pandemic, for example by running down stockpiles and outsourcing vital PPE to China and other low-cost economies at the expense of quality
– Imposed a decade-long austerity, which resulted from the financial crash of 2008, thereby weakening the NHS and leaving it vulnerable to a pandemic
– Taken on police-state powers which are being held in reserve to deal with mass challenges and unrest
– Is unable to develop a safe exit plan because the state puts the interests of the capitalist economy and growth over the health of the people.
Make no mistake, the unprecedented borrowing by the state to pay wages during the lock-down will result in austerity without end.
So we must campaign for and organise a transition, a democratic revolution that has one simple but substantial aim: the transfer of political and economic power to the overwhelming majority of working people either still in employment, unemployed or retired. System change is our goal.
We should discuss how we can dismantle the present, unrepresentative state system and create a real democracy with a new constitution. A new citizens-led constitution should set out how power is transferred from the existing state to workplaces, cities, towns, regions and communities in each country of the UK.
Keir Starmer and the new Labour Party leadership will not challenge or change the economic or political system which is neither representative nor democratic. So it’s up to the people themselves to develop a credible alternative that leads to system change. Some ideas include:
– A people’s inquiry into the causes of the pandemic, how it was dealt with and how to prevent future ones
– Citizens-led conventions that have the task of drawing up new, democratic constitutions for each country of the UK
– Citizens Assemblies and other local democratic bodies that challenge the local state and develop alternative policies and systems of representation
– Total rejection of post-pandemic austerity programmes
– Independent commissions learning from local, national and international initiatives, trade unions and experts to draw up proposals for an economy run on a co-operative, mutually-owned basis
– A citizens’-led commission to draw up emergency measures to protect eco-systems from further destruction to tackle climate change, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss
– Education programme to raise awareness of the nature of the UK state and its role in the capitalist system
– Development of the Real Democracy Movement and other organisations committed to system change with a view to co-ordinating a democratic revolution.
Let’s start the discussion on the way forward now!