Despite all their previous mistakes and shortcomings around the Covid-19 pandemic, there are anxious elites around the world who wish to convince working people to go back to work – as soon as possible. They suggest that this return to work is primarily for the sake of the economy. In other words for the same economic system that before Covid-19, treated working people like disposable commodities, whilst promoting increasingly wealthy elites into the billionaire category. In short, they want a return to the type of economy which bolsters the well-being, investments and share dividends of the elite and their hangers on. It is not really about saving lives, for ordinary working people’s lives are considered expendable.
Front line expendables.
Already health care workers, plus those ensuring water, power, food, sewage and refuse collection, have had to risk catching Covid-19 and passing it on to their colleagues, friends and families. Their lives have already been treated as expendable by the failure to supply enough protective equipment for them. Many have already died. This failure was compounded by the decision – from the outset of the pandemic – to issue out of date and unreliable equipment. For example in the UK it has been discovered that;
“Around 200 million vital pieces of kit – including respirators, masks, syringes and needles – had all expired in the eight months before 30 January.” (Channel 4 News)
Furthermore, the same news source obtained insider information that much of the equipment, purchased in 2009, only had a five year shelf life. Instead of being renewed, it had been re-stamped with dates of 2012, 2016 and 2019 and delivered to UK hospitals in March 2020. Only an oligarchy of governing elites with an attitude of callous indifference to the welfare and lives of working people would allow such breaches of safety protocols.
Moreover, if this has occurred in one advanced industrial country, we can surmise something similar – or worse – has occurred in many other countries.
Second line expendables.
The next category of working class expendables expected to risk their lives by returning to work, are those who supplement the first tier workers already delivering the basic essentials, noted above. This second group would comprise of transport workers in road, rail and air services. Additionally, those in industry and commerce who make, store and sell commodities and provide services, will be pressured back to work by one means or another.
Since there is still insufficient protective and testing equipment available for these further sectors, this represents a callous disregard for the lives of these two categories of working people. This indifference is further emphasised by the fact that – as yet – there is an insufficient understanding of how lethal Covid-19 is and how quickly it mutates. Workers returning to their jobs risk not only catching the virus but of also spreading it to other workers and their families.
Not only that but the percentage who do get it in a life-threatening form will also take that into hospitals and intensive care units where – even if more doctors and nurses do not die – it will stretch an already overstretched workforce of health care and medical workers. Thus the lives of a percentage of these two categories of workers – which we all depend upon – are to be treated as expendable.
Furthermore, the rest of us self-isolaters may face an even longer period of isolation if (or rather when) such an unprotected, untested return to work causes a second wave of infections as in South Korea. And all this ‘calculated’ risk to workers will be so that economic activity can ‘return’ to producing profits and dividends for wealthy shareholders. Many of whom will pay to protect themselves from Covid-19.
All retired working people, who survive to pension age are, with some exceptions, already treated with callous indifference. Despite a life-time of paying taxes on income and expenditure, pensions for many old people are a pittance. Many have to choose between keeping warm or eating enough food. Care homes have, by and large, been transformed into profit-making, low cost centers of containment and now contagion.
Clearly the political and governing elites, with huge salaries, expenses and pensions, display a callous indifference to the end of life experiences of the old and infirm working classes. In the UK just prior to Covid-19 paralysing the world, the Government and the BBC both wanted to stop allowing those over 75 to have a free television licence.
NB.The astronomical salaries and fees paid to the heads and entertainers of this broadcasting establishment were more important to preserve than this small privilege for decades of hard-working, tax-payers.
But the end-of-life period of this third expendable section of the working class could now be made even more miserable by those who govern our societies. For in the current political elite debate about a staggered return to work a revealing suggestion is already circulating. Since those over 70 are vulnerable to severe illness by Covid-19, they could be told to continue in social isolation for an extended period of time.
Having worked hard all their lives, some even having fought in a war (or two), working class senior citizens, many of them living alone, are to continue their lives – and many more will end it – in a form of solitary confinement! Not through their own fault but because the governing classes internationally have proved incompetent in preparing and managing a foreseeable pandemic.
Millions of pensioners through poor pension provision are now living in food and resource poverty and having this misery compounded by not being able to mix with their friends or have visitors. If you are working class and not yet retired, be warned: Capitalist-led forms of society, whose elites organise expensive and complex landings on moons and far off planets, excavate tunnels beneath seas, build themselves luxury mansions and fund weapons of mass destruction, also have the above impoverished retirement outcome in mind for your old age.
Roy Ratcliffe (May 2020)