Poverty and inequality

Inequality worsens the pandemic. The pandemic worsens inequality

New reports from academic researchers and think-tanks have vividly illustrated the connections between the Covid-19 pandemic and social inequality, and made the case — explicitly or by implication — for radical measures in response. A range of social inequalities have worsened the impact of Covid-19, and Covid in turn has worsened those inequalities. None of these reports comes from or even really mentions the labour movement, which surely says something too. Socialists must fight for our movement to shake itself up, to become a megaphone for social protest and campaigning. The Marmot review...

Marcus Garvey, model capitalist?

While I was writing my Solidarity pieces on Marcus Garvey, I heard of a short Radio 4 programme Black Star Line: The Story of Marcus Garvey. Produced in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement, the programme, narrated by 1Xtra DJ Seani B, sought in less than 30 minutes to tell us about Garvey and examine the influence Garvey and Garveyism has had today. Even as a potted history it has some holes. We are told that Garvey faced opposition from other black leaders in the US like Du Bois and A Philip Randolph, but never why. It suggests Garvey was an ambitious entrepreneur who believed in...

Top 1% dominate wealth

A new report from the Resolution Foundation finds that family wealth in the UK is grossly unequal and becoming more so. The top one per cent (average net wealth £5 million per adult in the family) have 23% of all household wealth, and a much higher proportion of the wealth that brings power (financial wealth and business assets, as against wealth in houses or in pension assets). The top 10% have 55%. The new report draws on a range of statistics and calculations to offset under-reporting in the official Wealth and Assets Survey. Wealth inequality decreased over the 20th century until the...

Pandemic points to need to "build back fairer"

"Covid-19 has exposed and amplified the inequalities we [have] observed [before] and the economic harm caused by containment measures – lockdowns, tier systems, social isolation measures - will further damage health and widen health inequalities. "Inequalities in Covid-19 mortality rates follow a similar social gradient to that seen for all causes of death and the causes of inequalities in Covid-19 are similar to the causes of inequalities in health more generally... "The mismanagement during the pandemic, and the unequal way the pandemic has struck, is of a piece with what happened in England...

The prospects of Sunaknomics

1. The Tories plan for government debt as a percentage of national income to increase through to 2024-5. They plan for public sector net investment to average 2.9% over the next five years, where it averaged 2.0% from 2010 to 2019. They project £55 billion public-service spending on Covid in 2021-2: public spending on Covid is estimated at £280 billion in 2020-1, of which £113 billion is public-service spending and the rest spending on furloughs, business support, and loans. 2. In broad terms, the Tories are still on the track of running budget deficits to sustain capitalism. In addition, they...

The inequality hit

Pandemic and lockdown (and Tory policies) have increased income inequality. A new report from the Fabian Society shows inequality set to increase even more in the coming months. Universal Credit was increased by £20 at the start of the spring lockdown. That increase is due to be withdrawn on 1 April 2021, at a time when more and more people are likely to be unemployed or on meagre part-time pay. The report estimates 1.1 million more in poverty (including 400,000 children) even on the most optimistic guesses about 2021 unemployment, and 3.2 million (850,000 children) on more pessimistic guesses...

Socialism and charity: ending food poverty

In response to the Conservative Government voting down a Labour Party motion to extend free school meal provision during school holidays, swathes of cafes, pubs, and restaurants across the country have stepped up to the plate, as it were, pledging to provide free meals to anyone who needs them. This has prompted an outpouring of congratulatory sentiment from across the social spectrum, with individuals, celebrities, and politicians from Nigel Farage to Sadiq Khan welcoming their generosity. Marcus Rashford, footballer and campaigner against child hunger, has been compiling a list of them all...

The pandemic from further back

Since the start of the pandemic there have been almost daily warnings of the effects that this natural disaster will have on our mental health. The impending mental health crisis has even been given a name: the “shadow pandemic”. However, beneath the headlines, there is surprisingly little hard evidence. Many surveys have found people increased levels of stress and anxiety, but that is not the same as mental illness. Some papers have predicted a big spike in mental illness based on patterns from previous natural disasters and economic crises. However the workings of the human mind are complex...

The New Jim Crow

Police violence in the USA is only a shore of a whole continent of racial oppression and marginalisation, so Michelle Alexander argues in her 2010 book, now a “classic”, The New Jim Crow. Alexander is a civil rights lawyer by trade. Chunks of the book are lawyerly, dissecting a string of Supreme Court rulings. She says herself that she wouldn’t have got to a “fancy law school” without affirmative action rules. Her punchline, though, is that racial oppression is knitted into a larger system of social inequality, and measures which create a bigger black middle class aren’t enough. “Piecemeal...

Organise to make the future safe and equal for all

The great wave of street protests after the killing of George Floyd on 25 May still continues, but the pace looks like slowing. Activists will be thinking about how they can continue their efforts over the months and years needed to win and consolidate change. That this killing has generated so broad a protest must be partly because a pandemic which has hit the worst-off hardest everywhere, and a wave of job cuts which has done similar, especially in the USA, are in everyone's minds.

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