Covid-19 hastens the deepening structural crisis of the capitalist system:
The CPI expressed its solidarity with all those affected and who will be affected by this growing health crisis, and to the health staff and emergency services in the front line. The health services across the country from Belfast to Cork are wholly inadequate, having experienced over a decade of harsh austerity cuts, bed closures, lack of investment, staff shortages and the prioritisation of private corporate medicine over a decent well-funded public health system.
The Covid-19 health crisis exposes once again the immediate need for one all-Ireland public health system. The virus is not subject to partition and knows no borders. In times like these the need to act on an all-Ireland basis is clearly highlighted. It also exposes the conflicting interests of policy makers in London and the policy takers in Belfast, who have little or no say on how they should react to the pandemic, to ensure the health and safety of all citizens living in the North and the close ties with those living in the South.
We would call on the Northern Assembly to disregard the British government’s strategy of ‘herd immunity’ regarding Covid-19 as the case of re-infection in Japan shows it to be incorrect, and to co-ordinate their efforts on an all-Ireland basis. The Tory government will utilise this crisis as an opportunity to rid themselves of what they deem as costly unproductive citizens, namely the old and vulnerable. The health and safety of the Irish people North and South cannot be left to this barbaric logic, and we as a people need to act in solidarity and kindness to those most at risk.
We, as a nation have difficult choices to make over the coming period. We either step up our efforts and implement aggressive social distancing and tracking to try and slow the rate of infections and therefore the fatality rates, but at huge economic costs or we follow the British lead and accept attrition of the old and the vulnerable, but stabilise the economy much quicker. The question becomes one of people or profit. We cannot allow the interests of those who profit dictate our fate.
The Communist Party of Ireland urges all its members, supporters, readers and followers to demand that each one of us implements aggressive social distancing.
We must protect those most vulnerably health wise and economically and demand that the government implement a country wide Mortgage and Rent holiday. That the government direct funds through Social Welfare to those effected by job loss or loss of earnings. That the government when needed guarantees free food supplies to those most in need. This is the only effective way that citizens will be able to materially withstand the huge strains to their household and livelihood in the coming months.
Many needless deaths will occur without drastic public health action to intervene immediately, which is why must up our collective effort to implement aggressive social distancing. The WHO estimates that 15% of cases result in “severe infection, requiring oxygen and 5% are critical infections”. Given most recent projections, (conservative when considering comparable projections in Britain predict an 80% infection rate) which assume a 40% infection rate as the HSE is predicting in the Republic, we’re left with a stark figure of 335,600 people possibly needing critical care across the whole island.
The health systems on each side of our partitioned country are incapable of meeting current demand, much less an increase this severe. A worrying trend that we are witnessing is the increase in the mortality rate where the virus has not been contained, due to ineffective action and a shortage of ICU beds, which further impacts patients unrelated to the virus. Even if cases were optimistically and evenly spread out over an 18 month period, we would still require the capacity to treat over 18,000 critical care cases a month, far beyond our current capacity.
The reality is however that those that will be infected will be clustered within the next 2 to 3 months, effectively leaving our health service unable to deal with the numbers infected that need intensive care units. We could witness as many as 40,000 deaths over the next 5 months according to some of the modelling done. This will mean those at the front line will have to make the individual decision on who should or shouldn’t be saved, however the austerity budgets over the passed 10 years has forced their hand to make more of those decisions than necessary.
We would urge all progressive forces to demand the immediate nationalisation of all private hospitals in order to increase our intensive care unit capacity, which will be required to care for the victims of Covid-19. Failure to do so will result in needless deaths that under a two tier, private and public health care system will inevitably happen. The health and safety of the Irish people North and South cannot be left to the logic of the market.
The pandemic sweeping the nation has led to developments in the ongoing talks around the formation of a new government with Fianna Fail and Fine Gael now looking like being the two major components of it. What this passed election lays bare is the absolute inability of elections and electoralism on its own, to bring about real, meaningful and lasting transformation of our country.
There is a growing class consciousness among a significant section of workers and young people, as reflected in the recent election results. This is a welcome growth in the first preference vote going to the left and also the transfers between left parties and individuals is a reflection of this deepening awareness of the need for real meaningful change.
What cannot be hidden in this optimism is that the parties now represented in the current Dáil, including Sinn Féin and the other parties which regard themselves as left-wing, all have economic and social policies which comply with the economic straitjacket of the EU fiscal rules. Thereby there can be little or no change of direction.
This will be further consolidated when the European Union Budget proposals for 2021-2027 are adopted, a budget strategy determined by the needs and interests of the core dominant states and their ruling classes. These budget proposals are detrimental to the needs and interests of the working class in Ireland and expose the shallowness of social democracy of the EU’s “cohesion and solidarity” mantra, which slogan has also been adopted by right wing elements.
The forces who benefited from this electoral surge did not create these developments but rather where the beneficiaries of it. The changes are the result of a decade long resistance across a range of social and economic battles. This awareness has grown out of peoples own resistance, political struggles and informed education around these issues.
Nevertheless, the election results can provide an important platform from which to build renewed resistance and struggles, to further build our peoples understanding of the class nature of the capitalist system and in whose interests passed, current and future government policies serve.
Only a mass conscious mobilisation of the working people can bring about real and meaningful change to their lives. The advances that working people have achieved throughout the existence of this state show this. Workers should be sceptical to what changes can be brought about within the existing institutional frameworks, North and South.
The CPI stated that working people need to push forward and not allow the political forces, ranged against them, to consolidate and regroup. While we recognise that the political parties of the ruling class remain a strong block within the Dáil, they are nevertheless declining in influence, as their strategy of making the people pay is leading to further resistance and rejection.
The recent TASC report exposed the scale of these sustained attacks on workers, with a growth in low pay across the 26 County economy. One in every four workers are struggling to live on low wages. The south of Ireland has the third highest level of low pay in European Union at nearly 23%. At least 23% of all employees in the wholesale and retail sector and nearly 40% of all employees in the tourism and catering sectors are low-paid workers, with persistently high number of jobless households. An increasing number of workers are employed in precarious jobs, with no security of employment, not even for a week’s work.
In the North, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) is in near bankruptcy. 92% of NIHE tenants on Universal Credits and are in rent arrears. The impact of the Benefit Cap for example in the Derry City and Strabane District Council area will result in 1500 families with children suffering cuts in income of up to £47 per week. This will be replicated across the 6 northern counties, which will result in ever growing poverty and inequality, making it even more a dependency of British imperialism.
What is becoming ever more clearer is that the institutions established by the partitioning of our country is one of the main obstacles blocking the potential for radical, people-centred change, so desperately required across our country. The 6 county political entity is simply unviable economically and politically.
The only lasting solution to ending both this domination and dependency is a national democratic solution, that of national reunification.
The growing inequality across Ireland will be further exacerbated with the clear signs of a new and deeper phase in the structural crisis of the system that is now developing within the global capitalist economy. This is not something which comes as a sudden shock, signs of a significant global recession have been in the air for at least a year. Forecasts for growth in the system of global imperialist monopoly capitalism have been revised downwards to less than 2.9%, the lowest since 2009.
There are growing signs of recession in the core capitalist economies like Germany and the United States. We are witnessing a continued decrease in global trade and manufacturing conditions. Capital’s confidence across the core has been on a downward trend for the past year whilst working people are experiencing a growth of extreme social inequality, growing levels of indebtedness higher than pre-2008 crisis levels, increasing tendency towards working poverty and precarious employment – to the extent that some 44% of employees in Ireland are now in this category.
The ongoing pandemic will present an opportunity by ruling ideological forces to present the deepening economic crisis as a consequence of the spread of Covid-19. They will use it to confuse and hoodwink workers from the real nature of this growing economic crisis which has its roots in the very logic of the capitalist mode of production. Signs of economic malaise long preceded the most recent collapse in global stock markets.
Low, and even negative government bond yields, anaemic growth, warning signs about unsustainable corporate debt and stalled growth in capital investment have all been signs pointing towards a coming recession over the past year. Like all past crises the ruling forces will attempt to use this crisis to engage in new attacks upon workers globally and here at home.
Workers need to be alert to the fact, and learn from past lived experiences, that crisis presents an opportunity by the ruling class to attack workers and advance the interests of capital. The CPI restates that there is no new phase of capitalism or phase thereof (neo-liberalism), rather what has been and is
taking place is a deepening of the structural crisis of the system itself. The solutions that the ruling class impose in the vain hope to overcome its inherent structural contradictions simply lay the foundations for the next crisis, propelling the system forward to ever more destructive forms.
The ruling class are driven to intensify exploitation of both labour (workers) and the natural world, to intensify violence, wars, oppression and environmental destruction. They desire to ruin the earth and to break the growing resistance of workers across the world, yet we see from Chile to France and India that there is a growing awakening among workers to the nature of their oppression and the real nature and role of austerity policies.
The goal of austerity was and is to enrich those whose income is largely dependent on ownership of private property such as CEOs and the owners of corporations, at the expense and exploitation of the majority who do the actual work or are forced or struggle to seek work.
The evolving economic crisis can only further exacerbate the deep inequalities experienced by the working class and reinforce the dependency and domination by imperialism.
If we are to end this dependency, inequality, homelessness, poverty, precarious employment, precarious shelter, inadequate health care, then we must seek a radical departure from this exploitative and oppressive system.
The progressive forces and movements must unite to form a broad class conscious, anti-imperialist movement if there is any hope in bringing about this change. Political parties on their own won’t do it. Trade unions on their own can’t do it. Social and cultural movements on their own can’t sustain it. Only by united action will we have any hope in changing the material conditions for our people.
Fundamentally what is needed is a democratic all-Ireland economic strategy for the people.
- An all-Ireland economic strategy where investment is democratically accountable to and prioritised by the people.
- An all-Ireland state investment bank to control and target capital investment in environmentally sustainable job creation, universal public housing, health services and infrastructure.
- A Bill of Rights for Workers and the repeal of all anti-worker laws, North and South.
- An economic and social strategy to challenge and break the malaise and the stifling grip of the euro and the EU.
What the Covid-19 pandemic has clearly shown is that under a socialist system, crisis can be contained, controlled and avoided when the people of a country have the ability to utilise all the resources available to them, for the benefit of all the people. It has also shown how barbaric a system can be when it based on private ownership and the necessity to seek profits.