The scant regard for the very lives of working-class people is vividly illustrated by the Tory response to the pandemic – Pamela Fitzpatrick


“Instead of attacking the Tories, the Labour leadership has embarked on a relentless campaign against its own members.”

Pamela Fitzpatrick

By Pamela Fitzpatrick

“Life is not an easy matter…. You cannot live through it without falling into frustration and cynicism unless you have before you a great idea which raises you above personal misery, above weakness, above all kinds of perfidy and baseness.” So said Leon Trotsky in 1935.

For many of us, life in 2021 is not an easy matter.  At a time when we desperately need big political ideas the Labour leadership is busy attacking its own members. Frustration and cynicism are now widespread, and we are witnessing an exodos of members from the Labour party. Many are in despair at the apparent demise of the left, the lack of any great ideas or leadership and the perfidy and baseness of some in our own party. 

We have obscene levels of poverty in the UK, not by accident but by design.  Those in work increasingly can expect to work on zero hours contracts for very low pay.  Welfare benefits have been reduced to such a level that those who cannot work due to ill health, disability or caring responsibilities have insufficient income to meet the basic needs of keeping a roof over their head and food on the table.

With the decimation of council housing and the myth of ‘affordable’ housing we have returned to slum housing.  Few people can ever hope to own a home.  Instead, an ever-increasing number of people will forever pay extortionate rents to landlords for poor quality, overcrowded accommodation. The short-term nature of tenancies means that families cannot put down roots in a community because they often must move from one area to another every year. 

Young people who aspire to further study find, notwithstanding their qualifications, the only jobs available to them will be bar or shop work on zero-hour contracts.   Yet they will have accrued eyewatering levels of debt for the privilege of simply going to university.

Domestic abuse has soared, and the trafficking of women forced into prostitution has been found to be now on an industrial scale. Yet the support services so needed have suffered massive cuts in funding. Savage cuts to legal aid means that women are often forced to remain with their abusers.

The scant regard for the very lives of working-class people is vividly illustrated by the Government response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  A Government content to see the bodies piled high so long as its donors and mates could make a fast buck.   Greed and incompetence of those in power have allowed 152,289 people to die unnecessarily. 

However, we should not forget that even prior to the pandemic working class people have been dying in their thousands due to poverty.  A new study accuses the Tory Government of “economic murder” and estimates austerity policies have caused 120,000 deaths.  The Government’s own figures show that over a period of 4 years a staggering 81,140 people died because of benefit cuts and sanctions.

We are suffering a housing crisis, a health crisis, a poverty crisis, and our services are collapsing around us.  It should be obvious to all that what is desperately needed at this time is a socialist government.

Yet we have a leadership unable to utter the word socialist, unable to commit to socialist policies and unable to offer an alternative to the abject poverty and injustice in the UK today.  Instead, of attacking the Tories the Labour leadership has embarked on a relentless campaign against its own members. 

Everyone in the UK should have a roof over their head with rents that are genuinely affordable and with long term security of tenure.  Everyone is entitled to food on the table of their choice not forced to suffer the indignity of a food parcel.  Everyone is entitled to work for a living wage and to expect that a comprehensive social security system will be there for times when they are unable to work. These are the very basic necessities of life.  If Labour politicians cannot see this, if they cannot fight for this then that they are in the wrong party. 

All the successes, all the gains made for a better life have come from the struggles of the working class.  Without those revolutionary struggles we would not have achieved shorter working hours, social security benefits, free education, pensions, and free healthcare.  Many of our gains have been wiped away, and our rights to protest are in danger of being severely curtailed. Yet the very people supposed to represent the interests of the working class in Parliament stand silently by or support the Government.

We only need to revisit the history of our movement to understand what needs to be done now.  As Alexandra Kollontai said over a Century ago:

“All our strength, all our hope, lies in organisation!  Now our slogan must be comrade women workers! Do not stand in isolation.  Isolated, we are but straws that any boss can bend to his will, but organised we are a mighty force that no one can break.”

  • Pamela Fitzpatrick is a Labour Councillor in the London Borough of Harrow and is a GLW candidate for the National Women’s Committee.

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