The COVID-19 pandemic has brought British capitalism to its knees. With unemployment soaring and the economy spiralling into the deepest recession ever recorded, Boris Johnson is desperate to restart the machinery of exploitation. To this end, the British ruling class and their ministers are above nothing and are fully prepared to put school students and their families in huge danger.

From the very beginning the callous disregard of the conservative government for the people of this country has been on full display. As late as March, the Tory press were touting at every opportunity the infallible principle of ‘herd  immunity’, with Boris Johnson  proudly declaring how Britain would remain ‘open for business,’ as he uncaringly declares the inevitable necessity of the deaths of ‘many more loved ones.’ Little more than a week later however, Boris Johnson was cowed before the ever-increasing death toll of COVID-19 and brought the country into lockdown. 

Three months later, and he makes his first attempt at a return to normality with a disastrous effort to return students to school in June. The attempt was marred by the safety concerns the government made every effort to ignore. Ultimately the schools made the decision to preserve student safety over Johnson’s desperate attempts to restore the economy to working order.

Another 3 months have passed however, and over  the last couple of weeks school and university students up and down the country have begun to return to their places of education, as the government works constantly to reopen the country for business. 

Students are returning to environments of regular contact where, despite the best efforts of teachers, they are inherently unsafe.  There should be no ‘negligible amount’ of deaths in order to protect the economy. The government fails again at providing advice for remaining safe. As little as a week before some schools were preparing to reopen their doors the government was desperately floundering on a position on students and teachers being allowed to wear masks.  This is because there is no solution that the government can choose. The inherent contradiction between keeping the pockets of the rich safe and keeping people safe under capitalism has been laid bare, and the Johnson government has chosen their side.

The consequences will likely not surprise you: since September first, daily new cases of the virus have more than doubled. That this coincides with a general return to work and education is no coincidence.

At every stage of this pandemic the conservative government has exuded an attitude of poorly hid callousness towards the working people of Britain, defiant to the final hour against the need for a lockdown. Now, as the push to return to work begins, we see the choice to prize the economy over people more clearly than ever. With the virus very much still haunting the country, businesses are reopening, and millions are returning to work and school. Boris Johnson has seemingly returned to his position of dedication to remaining ‘open for business.’ Re-implementing the six person rule has shown the contradiction more clearly than ever as many have joked that you can only spend time with your family if money can be made. The economy will resume, no matter the cost.

And it will only get worse for working class families and homes. The furlough scheme will be coming to an end in October, with protections against evictions soon to follow. With the end of the furlough scheme millions of jobs will become at risk, likely resulting in unemployment figures unheard of since the great depression of the 1930s. It is clear that the government is incapable of protecting the livelihoods or health of the population and are ready to raise both on to the altar in sacrifice for a return of business and profit. 

The failure to properly provide for human wellbeing over the course of the pandemic is not just skin deep. The greatest pursuit under capitalism is profit – all else is irrelevant. Whether the cost is measured in human life or environmental damage, it matters not. This is the necessary price of profit. 

It is clear now more than ever that human society is chafing against the limits and constraints of capitalism. We must demand an end to a system that places the cash-flow of the richest against our lives. We must demand that safety comes before profit. We must do away with this system that is killing us in our millions and look towards a world that can put our needs ahead of profit. 

Fight for socialism! 

Shelley Sullivan, Norwich Marxists