When the ruling class tells us that we’ve ‘got to learn to live alongside’ an unpredictable viral infection, the outcomes are bound to be unpredictable. There are just too many variables for us to be able to make reliable predictions. However, one thing is predictable – the lives of working class people will be disrupted.
The working class already struggles to access transport, healthcare and many other public services. Many of our class do not own cars and we do not have private health insurance, for example, and we are totally reliant on public transport and the NHS. These services are labour intensive. If bus and train drivers call in sick, bus and train time-tables are disrupted. If healthcare staff are absent through sickness, medical appointments become unavailable. This can have disastrous consequences.
Scenario 1: A worker has already ‘maxed out’ on their Bradford Factor Points. One more unauthorised absence could lead to dismissal. The bus that gets them to work does not turn up because of staff absences. It is too far to walk to work, or walking would still not get them there on time. There is no credit on their phone and they are ‘skint’. They can’t phone work with an explanation and they can’t afford a taxi. Result: rising stress levels contemplating the sack.
Scenario 2: A worker needs to speak to a doctor about a lump which has appeared under their arm. If they can get through to their GP’s Surgery, they are told that there are no bookable appointments and that due to staff shortages it is unlikely that they’ll be able to get a telephone appointment that day. They are told to try again tomorrow. Result: rising stress levels contemplating cancer.
Our class is already experiencing rising incidences of mental ill-health. We feel insecure financially. Capitalism thrives on this. A mentally impaired and impoverished labour pool is a cheap labour pool. The longer term answer to this is social revolution. We need to dump the bosses off our backs and run things ourselves. In the short term, though, we have to be organised in our communities, we have to be kind to each other and we have to help each other. The Mutual Aid Groups which sprang up at the start of the pandemic have to be revived and remain in place. Our class cannot rely on a system where the only nexus which exists between human and human is that of a callous cash payment, to paraphrase Marx. We do not have cash. We do have each other.