Daniel Lambe talks about his experience volunteering with his local foodbank and makes the case for all socialists to be active in their community, their tenants union and their trade union branch.
Like many other volunteers around Britain I have been doing my part in helping at one of the over 200,000 foodbanks now operating across the country. Foodbanks that are overwhelmed with referrals for 3 day emergency food packages to help alleviate working class families suffering from the curable disease of hunger, a disease that had ravaged our communities long before the arrival of Covid-19.
Thousands of volunteers across the nation have rallied to the call to defend our communities, helping those who are shielding, the elderly and those who do not have anyone else to look out for them.
In our lonely and broken communities, the boom and bust of our failing economic system has eaten away at our essential public services and community centres. In my experience these hard working volunteers and dedicated community foodbank staff have offered a listening ear to those experiencing isolation in an era of increasing mental health problems to people cast aside by a government that would prefer them dead than enact any meaningful policy change.
Prescription collections and deliveries, food parcel drop offs thoroughly disinfected and cleansed, warm socially distanced chats at the doorstep, the cooking and delivering of wholesome and nutritious freshly made meals. All of this would be impossible if not for the rise of working class solidarity against an economic system that only has one function – to expand and ever increase the rate of profit. Profit over people, over communities, over our basic needs and rights.
But what of big businesses doing ‘all they can’ to help out those in need, that are suffering too in our post coronavirus world? What of the successful big boss philanthropists, owners of major supermarkets and distilleries passing on food and hand sanitiser in order to do their bit?
At the same time as they are handing out charity, these businesses suppress worker’s wages and can sack them at the drop of a hat whenever it becomes more profitable for them. What I have witnessed over the past few months has not been the generosity of loaded companies dishing out alms to the needy but distillery workers, youth workers, the NHS, teachers, retail workers, and furloughed workers, comrades, all coming together in solidarity in order to strike back against a wholly unjust system.
With the rush to restart the economy and furloughed workers being summoned back to the daily grind, with little regard for public health, more and more are going to be facing the blast furnace that many of our key workers have been bearing the brunt of for months. ONS stats show that already 600,000 jobs have been lost due to Capitalism’s inability to deal with the crisis. A different story can be seen in countries like Vietnam, China and Cuba.
This is likely to increase day by day. When it takes up to five weeks to receive universal credit payments. A meagre £342.72 a month for those under 25, an age bracket that is being struck especially hard. Compounding this, we have seen the Scottish Government voting against help for renters but at the same time giving tax freezes on mortgages of landlords. A very grim picture is being painted. One where the interests of the UK and Scottish governments is not one that reflects that of every day people.
What this shows is that despite the strength mutual aid through foodbanks and other community mutual aid groups can have in easing the daily struggle of many working class people, it is only stemming the flow of water on the sinking ship of Capitalism.
We are not completely defenceless if our elected government won’t work in our interests. Trade Unions have seen an increase in membership for the third year running and as the ban on evictions eases, the actions and involvement of tenants unions like Living Rent, who are always ready to stick up for their members against landlords and the threat of homelessness.
Both these organisations are not going to be able to end the assault on workers rights or attacks against renting tenants without new members and militants. If foodbanks do not receive volunteers they will soon begin to struggle.
So I urge everyone, join your trade union, join your tenants union, reach out to help your local mutual aid groups and foodbanks, and most importantly reach out to a neighbour, you may never have known they were in need. These organisations need members and we need these organisations. Despite outward appearances with lockdown easing, Coronavirus is not going anywhere fast so now more than ever we need working class people coming together in solidarity to fight back at any push of austerity and hardship crushing down on us from above.