Socialist Worker

Virus, slump and racism show up system failure

Issue No. 2712

A mass march for Black Lives Matter in south London

A mass march for Black Lives Matter in south London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The global scale of coronavirus deaths is horrifying. Some 533,958 people were known to have died by Monday of this week, and the real figure will be higher.

At the same time, billions of people are being made poorer because of the impact of lockdowns. 

In Britain, firms slashed over 12,000 jobs in two days last week. 

Black people have been hit harder both by the virus and by poverty—and face racist violence from the cops.

These things are not unfortunate developments. They reflect the fact that the system fails the vast majority of people.

The death rate from coronavirus did not need to be so high. 

But governments across the world refused to take action early enough to contain it, fearing the impact on profits. 

Even when they imposed lockdowns, many people still had to go out to work.

And states are ending lockdown measures to get “the economy” moving—risking more lives. States are not neutral. They back up the business interests they are there to serve. So, healthcare systems have been privatised because that’s better for bosses’ profits. 

Governments have imposed cuts because ordinary people aren’t the priority.

So when the virus hit, healthcare systems couldn’t cope.

People have died not simply because of a deadly virus but because we live in a deadly system. 

The virus has sharply exposed how capitalism puts profit before people. So has the economic fallout. 

Pushed 

In Britain, the Tories were pushed to guarantee some of the wages of workers who would otherwise have been laid off. Now they want to push people back to work. 

But as firms announce cuts, many won’t have any work to go back to.

This isn’t inevitable. The virus crisis has shown up the things that people actually need. More health workers and more care workers to visit vulnerable people at home.

More social workers and youth workers to support children out of school. More delivery workers to get food to people.

Providing these things would create jobs. But it’s more profitable to overwork existing workers instead of paying to take on more.

The overwhelming majority of people do not benefit from the system. And we vastly outnumber the handful of super‑rich who do. 

So our rulers use racism to try and divide us.

Many who joined Black Lives Matter protests felt their lives were more at risk from police violence than coronavirus.

All of these things, plus the growing climate crisis, show that the system is failing. The Polish‑German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg warned that capitalism gives us a choice between “socialism or barbarism”.

We need to choose—and fight for—socialism. 


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