An Open Letter to all Working People from the Communist Party

Dear comrade, sister or brother,

The Communist Party is writing to you as one of the millions of people whose work keeps our society going in good times and bad.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown the value of all those workers who have continued to provide the goods and services that we all need to survive.

Despite their efforts, the virus has claimed more than 32,000 lives in Britain so far. We have a death rate per head of population FIVE times higher than Germany, TWICE as high as the US, higher than every major European country except Belgium, Italy and Spain – and 150 TIMES higher than China.

That’s the price being paid for decades of under-investment and privatisation in the NHS and social care in England, Scotland and Wales.

We have some of the biggest drug companies in the world – but they spend far more on advertising than on researching and developing new vaccines and cures for deadly diseases.

Financial and property services have come to dominate our economy, while our manufacturing base has been shrunk.

We no longer have the capacity to manufacture the personal protective equipment (PPE), testing kits and ventilators on the scale necessary in a pandemic emergency. Instead, Britain has to go shopping cap-in-hand to Turkey and China.

Who is to blame?

Tory and LibDem coalition governments cannot escape a major share of the blame for past failures. They ignored and covered up the findings of ‘Exercise Cygnus’ in 2016. Carried out across the NHS and social services, it warned that we had nothing like the levels of staff, PPE, beds, machines and medicines needed to deal with a severe pandemic.

Despite reports of a deadly new virus in China from January 2020, and the World Health Organisation naming COVID-19 as a ‘very grave threat for the rest of the world’ on February 11, no serious emergency measures were taken in Britain until mid-March.

More fundamentally, the British economy is one which puts shareholders’ profits before the needs of our society and people. Big companies and ‘market forces’ – those who have the most to spend – decide what is produced. There is no overall planning.

What should be done?

Early in this crisis, the Communist Party proposed: 

PPE AND SPECIALIST TRAINING urgently for all medical and frontline staff, including those in supermarkets, prisons and welfare establishments.

National and regional FORUMS of central and local government, health and medical bodies and trade unions and employers’ organisations to coordinate anti-crisis measures.

Close INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION with China and Cuba where effective action was being taken.

Direction of the PHARMACEUTICAL INDUSTRY to meet the needs of the people during and immediately after the current crisis.

FINANCIAL HELP for all workers, small business, the self-employed, tenants, students and benefit claimants in need as a result of emergency anti-pandemic measures.

Who’s going to pay?

After the 2008 financial crash, the £1 trillion bill for bailing out the bankers and City speculators was dumped on us, the people. We had a decade of public service cuts, wage freezes, higher taxes, and devalued pensions and benefits.

The Tory government and big business intend to do the same again as the COVID-19 crisis passes. 

That’s why, last weekend, the Communist Party called for a £150bn ‘Trident Dividend’, cancelling the renewal of Britain’s nuclear weapons system. This money should go into our health, social and emergency services and into productive industry. Invest in Weapons of Manufacturing Production – not Weapons of Mass Destruction!

Such a programme would only be possible across the English regions, Scotland and Wales when we are free from EU rules on state aid, competitive tendering and the free movement of capital. That means no extension of the Brexit ‘transition period’ after December this year.

All attempts to make working people and their families pay for the coronavirus crisis must be resisted. The British ruling class is still one of the wealthiest in the world. It’s time to end the tax haven status of British overseas territories, open up the books and make the super-rich pay a modest Wealth Tax. 

What next?

Saving more lives and protecting people at work must be the top priorities. That means no reckless rush into ending the lock-down.

There must be no return to unsafe working conditions and practices.

Now is the time for workers to join and strengthen trade unions in the workplace. Together, you have the strength to stop the job where your health and safety is at risk.

Government and employers have had no choice but to talk and listen to the unions in this crisis. Let’s build on these advances and win respect and dignity for all workers in future.

How? For a start, let’s end the category of ‘low-paid workers’. The COVID crisis has shown how much we all depend on those who clean the hospitals, care for the elderly, staff the shops, deliver the food and so much else. And there are no ‘low-paid bosses’.

Trade union representatives should be discussing and planning NOW to defend and improve workers’ pay and conditions during and after a mass return to work.

Facing the future

There will be future pandemics of this kind. We need to campaign in our unions, local trades unions councils, community organisations and political parties for government action to prepare for them.

You can help make that happen. There should be local meetings and national conferences to review the past and plan for the future. The British, Scottish, Welsh and regional TUCs and the People’s Assembly should call demonstrations thanking all front-line workers and demanding an end to low pay, investment in our emergency services and no more NHS privatisation. 

Britain’s Road to Socialism

The Communist Party makes no apology for always supporting and fighting for the interests of working people and their families. That’s why the powerful and wealthy minority who own and run Britain oppose us and what we stand for.

During this crisis, our membership has grown by 13 per cent. This reflects the contribution made by the party and its members – especially those in frontline jobs and unions – to debate and action at every level.

This pandemic has shown how capitalism is a system designed to enrich the few, not to protect the many. There must be a better way of organising our society and its economy.

In the midst of this crisis, we have seen the values that could govern a socialist society – the courage, the unselfishness, the solidarity. And why shouldn’t those who create the wealth – workers like you – enjoy much more of the fruits of their labour?

The Communist Party exists to help bring about revolutionary change. Find out more about us and and our programme, Britain’s Road to Socialism, at communistparty.org.uk/programme/and facebook.com/CPBritain

Why not join Britain’s Communists and shape a better future for all! 

Yours in comradeship,

Robert Griffiths

General Secretary