“When one individual inflicts bodily injury upon another such that death results, we call the deed manslaughter; when the assailant knew in advance that the injury would be fatal, we call his deed murder. But when society  places hundreds of proletarians in such a position that they inevitably meet a too early and an unnatural death, one which is quite as much a death by violence as that by the sword or bullet; when it deprives thousands of the necessaries of life, places them under conditions in which they cannot live – forces them, through the strong arm of the law, to remain in such conditions until that death ensues which is the inevitable consequence – knows that these thousands of victims must perish, and yet permits these conditions to remain, its deed is murder just as surely as the deed of the single individual; disguised, malicious murder, murder against which none can defend himself, which does not seem what it is, because no man sees the murderer, because the death of the victim seems a natural one, since the offence is more one of omission than of commission. But murder it remains … ”The Condition of the Working Class in England (1845), https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1845/condition-working-class/ch07.htm
It is not new to speak of social murder, indeed the then-Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell, spoke of in the sense that Engels used it, regarding the deaths caused by unsafe building materials in the terrible Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. However, the deaths referred to in this way in Grenfell ‘only’ amounted to 72. When we talk about the Covid-19 pandemic we are talking about 129,130 deaths as of now, and still counting (the ONS says 150,000).
In terms of per million/per capita death rates (it’s the same thing!), the UK is in 20th place in the entire world, out of 222 countries registered on the Worldometer as of 25th July. But the UK is the fifth wealthiest country in the world. Not only that, it has no land borders, only air or seaports, so it is obvious that the UK, as well as having advantages in terms of wealth in keeping the spread of Covid under control, also has natural advantages in terms of geography. The only advanced capitalist/imperialist countries that are ahead of the UK in per-capita infections, Belgium and Italy, both have extensive land borders with several states.
Furthermore, the statistics produced by the British government are considered too low by the Organisation for National Statistics, which is independent of the government. They announced in May that the real total of Covid deaths was more than 150,000.
Why this is becomes obvious when you examine the pronouncements and actions of the Johnson government in dealing with Covid, and the sporadically implemented, manoeuvrist, but discernible and clear strategy that has been implemented by Johnson over the entire pandemic.
The latest manifestation of this was laid out by Professor Robert West, an adviser for the Government’s own SAGE body (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) who have worked for the government for the entire pandemic, as reported in the Guardian. Regarding the July 19th Freedom Day, he wrote:
“What we are seeing is a decision by the government to get as many people infected as possible, as quickly as possible, while using rhetoric about caution as a way of putting the blame on the public for the consequences” .23 July
The article continues:
“’It looks like the government judges that the damage to health and healthcare services will be worth the political capital it will gain from this approach,’ West said, adding that ministers appear to believe the strategy is now sustainable – unlike last year – because of the vaccine rollout.
“A large wave of infections, coupled with mass vaccination, would push the UK closer to ‘herd immunity’, where enough people in the population are resistant to the virus that it no longer spreads. The threshold for herd immunity with the Delta variant is unclear, but scientists estimate that transmission would need to be blocked in about 85% of the population. Ministers have repeatedly denied that achieving herd immunity by letting cases rise is the government’s goal.”
Its perfectly obvious to everyone what the purpose of this gamble is. Johnson hopes to use herd immunity through infection as a lever to re-open the country ahead (he hopes) of Britain’s economic competitors. To try to achieve such an advantage, he is prepared to risk the death or serious, crippling injury through ‘Long Covid’, of a part of the population considered expendable, or even the possibility of the emergence of a new Covid variant that evades the vaccines in use at the moment, which would likely result in a lot more deaths. In the face of a partially, but insufficiently vaccinated population, this is not a fanciful threat, as many have pointed out.
It is possible that this tactic may succeed, but even if it does, it involves risking the lives of mass of the population and holding them hostage to the unpredictable genetic variations that can occur in a virus population allowed to circulate widely before genuine herd immunity is achieved by vaccinating in excess of 80% of the population, an optimum derived from scientific experience of previous vaccination campaigns to deal with endemic disease. This is the ‘buccaneering spirit’ of Brexit that Johnson, Cummings and co frequently spoke of over the past several years. Even if it works, there is a criminal intent behind the strategy.
Government strategy now is a modified version of its original strategy of herd immunity through mass infection without a vaccine. They had to abandon that in the face of a huge outcry, the forecast likelihood that it would result in half-a-million dead, and they would be strung up from the nearest lamppost. Now, instead, they are using herd immunity through mass infection to as a risky shortcut to speed up the development of herd immunity through vaccines, and they are prepared to risk a disaster that if it occurs would have world-wide implications, to steal a march on the competition.
The government can deny until it is blue in the face, but the evidence corroborates that its initial strategy at the beginning of the pandemic was “herd immunity” without vaccines. Not only did Johnson talk openly of it on Breakfast TV, but it was also promoted by Sir Patrick Vallance, who told Sky News:
“Communities will become immune to it and that’s going to be an important part of controlling this longer term … About 60 per cent is the sort of figure you need to get herd immunity.
“Our aim is to try to reduce the peak, broaden the peak, not suppress it completely; also, because the vast majority of people get a mild illness, to build up some kind of herd immunity so more people are immune to this disease and we reduce the transmission, at the same time we protect those who are most vulnerable to it.”https://www.ft.com/content/38a81588-6508-11ea-b3f3-fe4680ea68b5
This was in early March 2020, long before any vaccines existed.
The policy since has been, as was noted in a prescient article by George Galloway’s ‘Workers Party’, that of “punctuated herd immunity”. Even though, bizarrely, Galloway has been prepared for his own opportunist ‘tactical’ reasons to advocate votes for Scottish Tories during the pandemic, he managed to an astute and sharp characterisation of this:
“It is increasingly clear that these lockdown measures simply represent a kind of ‘punctuated’ herd immunity, and that the government has no intention of taking the measures necessary really to safeguard the wellbeing of those unemployed, elderly or impoverished workers from whom it makes little money, and therefore sees only as a burden.
“For effective protective measures – including the reversal of NHS privatisation, investment in public services, the creation of decent jobs and livelihoods for working people – undermine the very essence of the government’s goal, which is to safeguard the interest of the billionaire class at all costs, and at workers’ expense.”https://workerspartybritain.org/2020/10/17/statement-lockdowns-ineffective-unfair-proof-government-failure-manage-health-emergency-effectively-covid-19/
Johnson has been joined throughout the pandemic in this perfidy by Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, which had condoned or turned a blind eye to virtually every dirty deal or outrageous taking of risks with the lives of workers and minorities Johnson has done. The benchmark was set for his treachery when he said, in September 2020, the immortal words “Whatever measure the government takes, we will support it.” (https://labourlist.org/2020/09/sunday-shows-labour-will-back-whatever-measures-the-government-takes-on-covid-says-starmer/)
He was not talking of public health measures here, not about measures to limit or suppress the disease. He was also talking of measures to ‘revive’ the economy, even at risk of greater Covid infection. Indeed, at times he attacked Johnson from the right, for being too hesitant to send working class children into schools, before any section of the population was vaccinated because no vaccines were yet available:
“So, let me send a very clear message to the Prime Minister: I don’t just want all children back at school next month, I expect them back at school. No ifs, no buts, no equivocation,”https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/kier-starmer-schools-reopen-england-september-boris-johnson-coronavirus-a9672596.html
The schools were not only re-opened; parents were forced under threat of fines and criminal penalties to send their kids to school, which was the first time the government had tried to enforce this on families that feared Covid infection since the beginning of the pandemic.
Starmer is on the warpath against the left. A direct expression of this was his sacking of the sometime leftist Rebecca Long-Bailey as Shadow Education Secretary as the result of an ‘anti-Semitism’ smear. But as Skwawkbox revealed at the time, the real reason was her support for the teachers’ unions’ opposition to unsafe reopening of schools:
“Rebecca Long-Bailey has been sacked after a massive internal row over the Labour leadership’s support for Boris Johnson’s back-to-school push – after a doubling of school infections followed even Johnson’s abortive plan to push children and teachers back into the classroom”https://skwawkbox.org/2020/06/25/excl-long-bailey-sacked-after-massive-row-over-schools-return-as-news-emerges-that-starmers-support-for-return-has-seen-infection-rate-double/
This rushed and unsafe reopening of schools was the starting point of large-scale Covid infections in the Autumn of 2020, the emergence of the Kent variant, and the enormous second wave that followed from that, effectively tripling the number of deaths from the first wave over the winter. Not only that, but the Kent variant made Britain into ‘Plague Island’ because of inadequate testing and tracing, siphoned off to mates for a fast billon or forty, and was allowed to spread from here around the world because of inadequate emergency health-related border restrictions (by people who pride themselves on demanding border restrictions for racist and xenophobic reasons). Dominic Cummings has exposed some of the outrageous sayings and doings of Johnson over this whole period. But on the core issue, Johnson had Starmer’s support.
Not only Johnson, but also Starmer, have a mountain of corpses on their hands. They represent together a kind of brotherhood of social murder. They are both killers.
Break with Re-Blairised Labour
Starmer is on a rampage against the Labour left and those who ever supported Jeremy Corbyn. His vendetta against those on the left who have in any way objected to previous Zionist-led purges within Labour, is characteristic. He inspires no one at all -certainly not working-class traditional Labour voters, who stay at home. He has been losing by-elections to the most corrupt, decrepit government imaginable. He only survived by the skin of his teeth in Batley and Spen because of Matt Hancock’s exposure and fall. His task as a mercenary for the bourgeoisie is to destroy the political element of the labour movement and politically erase all class-conscious elements.
But he can only succeed if the left accepts Labour Party fetishism and refuses to break with the organisational framework of the Labour Party. These circumstances have created a historic opportunity, and necessity for class conscious elements in Labour to defy its rigged structures and found something new. We have the opportunity to build a mass, subjectively socialist party based on the hundreds of thousands of left activists who joined Labour to support Corbyn’s challenge, and who have nothing in common with the Starmer Blairites. It is desperately necessary to begin this in the coming months. The October conference of Resist – Movement for a People’s Party (https://resistfest.co.uk/) looks like a starting point for this and we urge all socialists to join and participate in this.