Socialist Worker

The ‘national interest’ is not the interest of workers

During times of turmoil, the ruling class will tell us to come together. Behind this is the drive to keep making profits, writes Nick Clark

Issue No. 2697

Propaganda in world war two

A Second World War (Pic: bud poet/flickr )

We should all be very suspicious of talk of putting Britain on a war-like footing to deal with the coronavirus enemy.

The Tories’ hope is that this mythical Blitz spirit and feeling of national togetherness will unite everyone behind a government that’s only out for the rich.

In reality, advocating that people collaborate in the way the government wants will help take the responsibility off the Tories. 

Boris Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak have deliberately tried to portray themselves as the Winston Churchills of the hour. 

And by and large the media have helped them. 

Meanwhile the Labour Party has shied away from tearing the Tories down for putting the lives of ordinary people at risk to protect the interests of the rich.

Under the pressure of a society in crisis, Labour has chosen to play the role of loyal opposition.

It hopes to prove it has the “national interest” at heart—and to hint that maybe that national interest would be better served by a Labour government instead.A “responsible” Labour MP might decide that now isn’t the time to bring down a Tory government. They might even think that it’s time to join it.

The New Statesman website reported that some Labour MPs are dreaming of a national government, joining the Tories as the junior partner of a coalition.Yet the national interest boils down to giving the rich what they want. 

The rest of us, who don’t share those interests, are made to suffer. The financial crisis is a good example. In the name of the national interest, Labour and Tory governments gave billions to the bankers and austerity to the rest of us.

It was a solution for the rich, and a punishment for working class people. And the Tories want to take the same approach when it comes to the coronavirus outbreak For most people, a solution to the coronavirus is one that focuses on protecting everyone’s health and making sure no one goes without.

For the Tories and the rich, the solution is about making sure their system can survive.

For them the big fear is that the profits will stop flowing. For us it’s that our lives are crashing to a halt.

That division shows up constantly in every aspect of life. 

Is your manager telling you to come in when you know you should stay home? 

Is your billionaire employer going to stop your pay? Is your landlord going to evict you if you can’t pay the rent?

The class war doesn’t stop, even when everything else in society seemingly has. Our solutions have to put that war at the centre.That’s why what Labour proposes its members do—organise food banks—isn’t enough. 

If there’s no class struggle involved, it lets the government and the rich off the hook. Even worse, the left gets co-opted by them. So if you’re thinking of organising deliveries, let’s also organise to demand the government makes sure everyone has the food and medicine they need. 

The coronavirus crisis is going to deepen the division between those at the top and the rest of us.

We should grasp that to try and win real changes in society, not try to smooth it over.

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